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Comment: Re:Our democracy is broken (Score 1) 139

by NicBenjamin (#49555807) Attached to: Think Tanks: How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law

I ain't Canadian. I learned about Matty Moroun because my Mom was one of the people who organized legal challenges to his more interesting plans for years.

I apologize if I was unclear, but I'm not talking about corruption. Corruption is by definition illegal, what Moroun does is perfectly legal*. He tries to manipulate the political system so that it favors his companies. In the US, with it's intricately designed system of Checks and balances and numerous important political players; he has a lot of room to maneuver. And that's actually intended behavior of the political system. Americans like it when systems reward people who put time and energy into figuring out how they work, which means sometimes an asshole who puts time and energy into the US political system gets major rewards. And that's WaD, or Working as Designed, to quote some most excellent game developers.

OTOH, in Canada the system is specifically designed so everything has to go through one of two people (the Provincial Premier or the Prime Minister). Once they figure out that you're Matty fucking Moroun your career as a political player is over.

*Most of the time. He tried some blatantly illegal campaign ad buys in Canada recently, but only after he moved all his employees and seizable assets to the US side of the bridge.

Comment: Re:Is it the phone or the stupid stuff installed o (Score 1) 424

by NicBenjamin (#49554845) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Are the Most Stable Smartphones These Days?

The sentiment certainly preceded Voltaire.

It's very common in politics that a bunch of people will all be thinking along the same lines, and want the government to do something very similar to solve a given problem. If they can all agree on one concrete course of action to solve the problem they are much more likely to succeed then if they all come forward with slightly different proposals. Let's say the problem is nut imports driving local producers out of business, if the guy who wants a 16.6% (or 1/6) tariff on walnuts spends all his political capital ensuring the guy who wants 12.5% (or 1/8) fails then it's likely there will never be a tariff on walnuts. OTOH if they compromise on 14.3% (1/7) then they're much more likely to succeed.

Comment: Re:Our democracy is broken (Score 2) 139

by NicBenjamin (#49554439) Attached to: Think Tanks: How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law

Ever heard of Matty Moroun and the Ambassador Bridge Company?

They own the biggest border crossing between Detroit and Canada. Since it's about 80, and it was a bit small before NAFTA, there's a significant need for more capacity at that border crossing. They want a second bridge, owned by them, at the same location. Nobody else wants that because they're so crazy the Forbes profile of Moroun was entitled "the Troll Under the Bridge." He's got political legs because he's got a lot of money, and he's very skilled at rationalizing his behavior until it fits into whichever ideology he thinks will be most helpful in getting the particular politician he's talking to at this exact moment vote for his current scheme. One of the first signs that made me question Kwame Kilpatrick's ethics, was Kilpatrick's status as a Marounie.

The Canadians had this figured out in the late 90s, and no Canadian pol has associated with Maroun since then. This is because it's a much more centralized system, so the PM or Provincial Premier will get asked about Maroun before an MP or MLA from the other side of the Province starts submitting Moroun-approved bills. In the US, OTOH, Michigan's State Senate voted the not-second-span idea down in Committee/a>, largely because a bunch of Senators didn't know/care that Moroun is one of the most hated figures in Detroit, and the dude has money. The Canadians out-manuevered the Senate by agreeing to pay for the entire cost themselves*, so Moroun put a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot banning publicly financed bridges...

There's no such thing as a system that keeps the wealthiest 10% with 10% of the political power. But if you think that our system is as bad as theirs you probably haven't been much attention.

*They'll get the money back eventually. They're the only ones allowed to charge tolls on the bridge.

Comment: Re:You cannot do that (Score 1) 305

by NicBenjamin (#49553109) Attached to: Futures Trader Arrested For Causing 2010 'Flash Crash'

If the way the HFT Guys gave up money was by reducing the actual listed price on the exchange it's illegal. Period. It has to be illegal or you get interesting things like the Panic of '73. The method is irrelevant.

Don't get me wrong. If I was in Congress and a bill to ban a lot of the shit the HFT guys came before the House I'd vote for it, but the Robin Hood defense tends not to work in Court for people who have eight figures stowed away in the Caribbean.

Comment: Re:Our democracy is broken (Score 4, Interesting) 139

by NicBenjamin (#49553049) Attached to: Think Tanks: How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law

The problem with that plan is that so many aspects of the way the system is designed give people with money and/or time an advantage that you'd basically have to scrap it.

For example, we have a bicameral Legislature and an independent Executive chosen via staggered elections. The Legislators are independent actors. That means policy-making tends to the crowd-sourced-cluster-fuck when things are going well. It also means intricate stratagems of getting Rep A to trade horses with Senator B, while bribing Subcommittee Chair C, etc. become possible. And Bill Gates is the guy who has the time/money/employees do engage in such stratagems. The staggered elections mean that the people in power are looking at vastly different electorates, which in turn means that the guy whose worried about being elected in a non-Presidential year has to worry more about older, whiter, more conservative voters who tend to vote every time; whereas the guy whose next up in a Presidential year is going to be much more concerned with younger, browner, leftier voters who are much more likely to only show up once every four years. If you add in our campaign finance system, and large districts (our smallest House District is a half-million people), it just gets worse.

Compare this to Canada. They have a lot of the same trappings we do like a Senate, but their Senate is toothless. Half the bullshit that allows the wealthy to out-manuever the rest of us is gone because nobody gives two shits what a Senator says. One of their core principles is called "Responsible Government," which means the government is designed so that it's virtually impossible for anything of note to happen without everyone knowing precisely which two to three people to blame if it turns out to be invading-Iraq-level-dumb. See the Commons choose the Executive, the Prime Minister, chooses the Cabinet. If the Commons fail to agree with a PM they will vote against the bill they don't like, forcing a new election, and the next PM will agree with the next Parliament on that particular issue. That means that the only people who can really be blamed for fuck-ups are the PM, the relevant Minister, and possibly (but extremely rarely) somebody else for bullying them. There is very little space in the system for a clever person to game it by clever maneuvers, which means that clever people can't sell access to their clever plans to game the government.

Don't get me wrong. The wealthy will always have more influence then their numbers indicate because a) they vote, and b) many of the not-wealthy figure "a poor man never gave me a job" and out-source their policy preferences to rich-ass-mother-fuckers. But the system we got amplifies that a huge degree.

Comment: Re:You cannot do that (Score 1) 305

by NicBenjamin (#49550757) Attached to: Futures Trader Arrested For Causing 2010 'Flash Crash'

Reading the source is somewhat interesting, but doesn't change the facts alleged. It's mostly about HFT guys, and their actions are only relevant to this case to the extent he could blame them for bringing down the market on that day.

The feds are alleging this guy arranged his fake orders so that the price would go down, and that made him money. The second bit (the price going down to make him money) is trivial to prove.

Whether the orders were fake and intended to drive the price down is trickier to prove, but (as I said before) depending on what other evidence they have not as hard as you;d think. Most finance-related crimes would actually be harder to prove, since for most of them you wouldn't have a five year pattern of the dude doing the same set of fake trades, getting the price to go down, and making a profit.

The actual text makes me more suspicious of him, because he's repeatedly claiming that the HFT guys are using his order to base their order, which in turn means that his unfilled order is causing them to buy or sell; which means he actually knows how to manipulate the market price by using their algorithms. It doesn't help that their talking about programs he's only had sine '13, or three years after the crash. It also contradicts itself -- either he's a mouse-based trader, or he's using automated programs (algorithms in trader-speak). The article claims that he must be innocent because a) he's mouse-based and b) his algorithm was switched off.

Comment: Re:Global warming/ice cap melting (Score 1) 164

by NicBenjamin (#49549517) Attached to: I spend most of my time ...

The Great lakes region is probably one of the best placed in the world to take advantage of global warming. Plenty of fresh water, weather that's not great (but not terrible) and getting better, safe from ice cap melt, significant infrastructure already, etc.

On the US Side of the border the problem is that the local government system is incredibly stupid. For an extreme example see Detroit. For reasons nobody can quite explain, there are 100+ different political units in the region. What (in a sane state) would have 3-4 Mayors and one County government has 100+ Mayors and three County governments. Additionally the state only allows the but that is officially a the Big City of Detroit the tax rate that Ohio gives minor suburbs (2.4%, in my new hometown of Cleveland Euclid is 2.85%, and several others are at or above 2.5%), and refuses to allow it to rise to Big City levels. If you were surprised that Detroit went bankrupt you probably weren't paying very close attention to the city.

Since the 100+ non-Detroit Mayors, and two of the three Counties, insist that Mass transit = Evil Black Criminals Stealing Our Daughters there is no mass transit system, and hypothetical refugees from a flooded New York could not move here because many of them never bothered to get a driver's license.

On your side you're quite well-placed in some ways, because an Ontario government of the late 90s consolidated most of your ridiculous wanna-be cities into political units that reflected actual reality, but not too well placed in others because there aren;t a lot of huge Canadian cities on the East Coast to supply refugees.

Comment: Re:EADS (Score 1) 78

by NicBenjamin (#49549467) Attached to: German Intelligence Helped NSA Spy On EU Politicians and Companies

Do you have a source for that, or are you making it up?

Because the CIA has never actually admitted it does economic espionage. It has never actually been caught doing economic espionage (ie: spying on a foreign private business organization, and then turning the data over to a US, private, business organization). It has done shit like support non-Americans who want to shoot their President (who happens to oppose US economic/political interests), but that's not economic espionage. It's standard skullduggery.

Accusing them of economic espionage for doing that is like dinging Hitler for seizing Jewish artwork.

Comment: Re:EADS (Score 2) 78

by NicBenjamin (#49549439) Attached to: German Intelligence Helped NSA Spy On EU Politicians and Companies

Thing is economic espionage is really easy to detect. You know when you've lost a contract at the last minute due to Exxon putting in a rush bid that was $1 better then yours. That happens a few times and you can't prove you're being spied upon by Exon in any single case, but you know precisely what happened. There's a reason the French are notorious for economic espionage, despite never having a Snowden.

The only confirmed case where the US actually did use spy-information to aid a private company in it's business dealings (aka: the definition of economic espionage) was when they outed Airbus for bribing a Saudi Prince.

Of course guys like you tend to have a a ludicrous definition of economic espionage. Spying on the Indonesian government via the law firm they're using to sue the US is not economic espionage. Spying on PetroBras could be, depending on what information was taken, and whop it was sent to, because it's a state-owned oil company. But if you're going to spy to benefit US oil interests why would spy on PetroBras? They've got a monopoly on Brazil and very few interests elsewhere. Maybe as part of a large strategy of spying on all oil companies, but PetroBras was the only one.

Comment: Re:You cannot do that (Score 1) 305

by NicBenjamin (#49549217) Attached to: Futures Trader Arrested For Causing 2010 'Flash Crash'

I apologize for being unclear, but apparently you really did not understand what I was saying in that last post.

Whatever phrase you finance guys have come up with involving "algorithm" apparently has very little to do with the CompSci definition of the term. In CompSci an algorithm is any repeated process that can be approximated by a series of instructions. Any process. If you only data blondes your mate choice algorithm includes a a step about hair color. If you think Apple's long-term worth per share is $125, and therefore whenever you see that it's below $125 you buy and whenever you see it's above you sell; that is an algorithm even if you don't set up a computer program to do it automatically.

Thus, if the market price is what the last guy paid, then the algorithm is the price is what the last guy paid.

If the algorithm is that simple then it's harder to prove because you can't just turn the steps into a computer program that nobody could argue with. You could turn the steps into a computer program, but that would apparently involve guesses about how his unexecuted trades affected actual executed trades, which makes it hard to prove beyond any doubt. But the standard is not "any doubt," the standard is "reasonable doubt."

But that kind of hard is typical in financial crimes, which tend to be things that are perfectly legal except under certain arguable circumstances (ie: Martha Stewart would have gotten off if she'd had a diary that gave some other reason for selling her shares that day).

So I suspect they've got something besides the trades. Perhaps his latest business included him boasting about making money off a crash he'd help create, or an email to a snitch said something about actively manipulating market prices, or they think they really have isolated the effect of a single unexecuted trade on the market price.

Comment: Re:Except... (Score 1) 153

by NicBenjamin (#49549135) Attached to: Twitter Moves Non-US Accounts To Ireland, and Away From the NSA

You do realize your entire chain of logic is predicated on the assumption that the Judge believes them when they claim they can't access it? Change that and even you admit that Twitter gets fined until it complies, which means installing a back door..

Moreover I think you need to do some research on the ability of the US Legal system to penalize Americans for failing to ensure foreign legal systems don't kiss the ring of a random District Court Judge. Denny Chin, for example, is generally a pretty good Judge. He has recently been in the news because he's repeatedly ruled that Argentina's sovereign default has no standing under US Law; and therefore the American banks who are running their bond programs have to pay vulture funds at the pre-default rate. The Appeals Court has backed him up. The Supremes refused to even hear the case.

Comment: Re:No cuts are ever possible (Score 1) 195

by NicBenjamin (#49548915) Attached to: House Bill Slashes Research Critical To Cybersecurity

No form of IR small enough to be mounted on an aircraft has a range of more then 75 miles, which is not a lot of range at Mach 1.6. Land-based installations aren't any better.

As for equal powers, there aren't any. A single carrier battle group has the military power to conquer all but a half-dozen or so nations all by itself. The Chinese will probably get there in 20-30 years (military investments are long-term, so even if they hit our absolute level of defense spending tomorrow it would take them a decade to catch up in combat power), but the other potential competitors just don't have the resources. The Russians are mostly still selling Soviet-era tech (the Su-35 you are so high on is the same airframe as 1988's Su-27).

But if you're right they wouldn't need to be equal powers to dominate their own bit of the sky. They'd need some WW2-era electronics, and a bunch of RADAR techs. This doesn't work IRL because a RADAR building can't dodge, so cruise missiles and stealth bombers level the things before they can be used against our other combat aircraft.

Comment: Re:You cannot do that (Score 1) 305

by NicBenjamin (#49542471) Attached to: Futures Trader Arrested For Causing 2010 'Flash Crash'

Then the Algo is the combination of most recent bid/ask prices.

He was doing something that was affecting the market price, or his defense wouldn't be "but everybody does it," it would be "but the market price is not affected by my fake bids and therefore I could not have caused the crash."

If the fake trades don't get directly calculated in it gets trickier to prove, but it's still possible. The evidence becomes circumstantial, but that's not unusual in financial crimes cases because financial crimes tend to be complex multi-step acts which are only illegal in aggregate. ie: Martha Stewart had every right to sell her stock, she had every right to know the company wasn't getting the approval it wanted, but selling it right after learning about the non-approval got her sent to jail.

Comment: Re:No cuts are ever possible (Score 1) 195

by NicBenjamin (#49542429) Attached to: House Bill Slashes Research Critical To Cybersecurity

So there's a mysterious form of RADAR, that's been widely available since the 90s, which can shoot down stealth aircraft at will, yet we have lost only one manned stealth aircraft in combat in 20 years?

What's more likely, that the above scenario is the case, or that some RADAR geeks are over-estimating the practicality of using their equipment in combat situations?

Comment: Re:It's hard to credit the behavioural science cla (Score 1) 195

by NicBenjamin (#49542063) Attached to: House Bill Slashes Research Critical To Cybersecurity

The reason I like Federal funding of this stuff is that it means you don't get weird market-based distortions.

For example if Microsoft funded it they would actually be breaking multiple business ethics rules if they let anyone else us it, because their major ethical duty is to make sure their shareholders get paid. That means incorporating the research into Windows and then using it as a selling point. To get away with letting Google and Apple use the research they'd have to have evidence the PR value was greater then the research cost.

OTOH if the Feds do it through their science budget it's public domain, and anyone can use it.

Science and religion are in full accord but science and faith are in complete discord.