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Comment: Re:Just private contractors? (Score 2) 121 121

Don't underestimate the institutional and personal corruption factor. When the government outsources to contractors, there is an automatic revolving door between the government insiders and the contracting firms. The government workers put in their time at the relatively lower pay scale, and when they get out they just end up sitting on the other side of the same table at a much higher salary. Everybody knows how it works, and as long as nobody rocks the boat they get to retire with both a government pension and a second income and retirement plan.

In some areas it moves even faster and nobody waits for retirement. If you want to work on Wall Street with an MBA/law degree and you can't get in, just go work for a government regulator. Four of five years of that under your belt and you end up being hired by the same firms you used to regulate. It's possible that this route will pay as well as going directly to the private sector.

It's not as obvious as working with on project Z in government and then directly going to a contractor who works on Z, although that often happens. It's more that the contractors know they need to hire a certain number of people who have previous government managerial experience if they are going to make a credible bid for the job.

I've seen this in person working for military contractors. To even get considered you need to have retired officers of a certain rank. When it comes to the corporate level, the requirement is having generals on you board of directors, or in management. In one case I saw a general who had a big part in the Iraq war get on the board of directors because the company wanted to go over the billion dollar mark in sales. They were starting to compete with the big boys, and without "contacts" they knew they would never get their. As far as I know it worked.

Comment: Don't ignore recent history (Score 4, Informative) 361 361

Remember that during the Iran/Iraq war Saddam Husein's regime used poison gas against Iranian troops and civilian populations.

After Iran sent chemical casualties to several Western nations for treatment, the UN dispatched a team of specialists to the area in 1984, and again in 1986 and 1987, to verify the claims. The conclusion from all three trips was the same: Iraq was using chemical weapons against Iranian troops. In addition, the second mission stressed that Iraq’s use of chemical weapons appeared to be increasing. The reports indicated that mustard and tabun were the primary agents used, and that they were generally delivered in bombs dropped by airplane. The third mission (the only one allowed to enter Iraq) also reported the use of artillery shells and chemical rockets and the use of chemical weapons against civilian personnel.

How did they get this capability? Countries from all over the world helped them, including the US, France, England, Germany and China.

As part of Project 922, German firms such as Karl Kolb helped build Iraqi chemical weapons facilities such as laboratories, bunkers, an administrative building, and first production buildings in the early 1980s under the cover of a pesticide plant. Other German firms sent 1,027 tons of precursors of mustard gas, sarin, tabun, and tear gasses in all. This work allowed Iraq to produce 150 tons of mustard agent and 60 tons of Tabun in 1983 and 1984 respectively, continuing throughout the decade. All told, 52% of Iraq's international chemical weapon equipment was of German origin. One of the contributions was a £14m chlorine plant known as "Falluja 2", built by Uhde Ltd, a UK subsidiary of a German company; the plant was given financial guarantees by the UK's Export Credits Guarantee Department despite official UK recognition of a "strong possibility" the plant would be used to make mustard gas. The guarantees led to UK government payment of £300,000 to Uhde in 1990 after completion of the plant was interrupted by the first Gulf War. In 1994 and 1996 three people were convicted in Germany of export offenses.

France also provided glass-lined reactors, tanks, vessels, and columns used for the production of chemical weapons. Around 21% of Iraq’s international chemical weapon equipment was French. 75,000 shells and rockets designed for chemical weapon use also came from Italy. About 100 tons of mustard gas also came from Brazil. The United States exported $500 million of dual use exports to Iraq that were approved by the Commerce Department. Among them were advanced computers, some of which were used in Iraq’s nuclear program. Austria also provided heat exchangers, tanks, condensers, and columns for the Iraqi chemical weapons infrastructure, 16% of the international sales. Singapore gave 4,515 tons of precursors for VX, sarin, tabun, and mustard gasses to Iraq. The Dutch gave 4,261 tons of precursors for sarin, tabun, mustard, and tear gasses to Iraq. Egypt gave 2,400 tons of tabun and sarin precursors to Iraq and 28,500 tons of weapons designed for carrying chemical munitions. India gave 2,343 tons of precursors to VX, tabun, Sarin, and mustard gasses. Luxembourg gave Iraq 650 tons of mustard gas precursors. Spain gave Iraq 57,500 munitions designed for carrying chemical weapons. In addition, they provided reactors, condensers, columns and tanks for Iraq’s chemical warfare program, 4.4% of the international sales. China provided 45,000 munitions designed for chemical warfare.

So given this history, is it irrational for Iran to want to get the biggest baddest weapon of mass destruction they can, no matter what the cost? A rational cost analysis is irrelevant under these circumstances.

A significant number of the world's major powers actively supported an attempt to turn their country over to an actual Mad Dictator. Why should they trust anybody? With a nuclear capability they would have a big stick, and to them it is obvious this is desirable. "Axis of evil" is a great propaganda slogan, but even though it gets the votes out in middle America and is great for funding the military/industrial complex, it must sound incredibly hypocritical in a country where "roughly 5% of the Iranian casualties were caused by chemical weapons".

Comment: Re:Bullshit? (Score 1) 195 195

I wish I had points to mod you up.

People invariably think that they are much better at multitasking then they really are. Every time someone does a controlled study they find out that interruptions have a profound impact on most peoples ability to function. It doesn'tmake any difference if the interruption is when you are online trying to complete a task or in a car and driving. Attention switch has an intrinsic cost.

I've know a few military aircraft pilots and they are the only people I would trust to use a cell phone while driving a car. And they don't do it because they know it is too dangerous. It's just not worth the risk.,

Comment: Re:Defense of the Innocent (Score 1) 59 59

What universe are you living in? Do you watch any news at all? The vast majority of "convictions" are the result of plea "bargains" resulting from a legal system that puts power in the hands of prosecutors

According to many legal experts, the driving force behind this change is an increase in prosecutorial power. Through the use of mandatory minimums and other sentencing enhancements, the power to sentence convicted defendants is passing from judges to prosecutors as legislators continue to pass laws that remove judges’ sentencing discretion but allow prosecutors to decide whether to charge defendants under harsh or more lenient statutes. The effect of these changes has been to increase the risk exposure of defendants going to trial, which creates a greater coercive effect for them to agree to plea bargains.

“Judges have lost discretion, and that discretion has accumulated in the hands of prosecutors, who now have the ultimate ability to shape the outcome,” stated University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell, who was formerly a conservative federal judge and prosecutor. “With mandatory minimums and other sentencing enhancements out there, prosecutors can often dictate the sentence that will be imposed.”

“We now have an incredible concentration of power in the hands of prosecutors,” noted former Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard E. Myers II, an associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina. He added that the scales of justice have been tipped so heavily in the prosecution’s favor that, “in the wrong hands, the criminal justice system can be held hostage.”

According to some experts this has already occurred, resulting in a dramatic reduction in the percentage of cases being tried by a jury. Since 1977 the ratio of federal criminal defendants who opt for a jury trial has decreased from one in four cases (25%) to one in thirty-two (about 3%).

So how many innocent people do you think our existing system will protect under these circumstances? "Your honor, the officers observed the suspect and with the same chin profile as captured in the video of the person we think left the crime scene. Genetic evidence and face recognition software shows that the accused has an identical chin. This objective scientific evidence refutes the biased testimony of the family and co-workers who claimed that the suspect was either at home or work when the crime occurred. If you let them free then you or your children will be the next victim of this horrific predator. The least we can do is give then 20 years to life. If they had any sense of guilt or remorse they would have taken our offer of five years in jail."

Think I am exaggerating? From the article:

One example is that of Orville Wollard of Polk County, Florida, who fired a handgun into the wall of his house to scare his daughter’s boyfriend into leaving. Wollard claimed that he was merely protecting his family from the boyfriend, whom he said was a violent drug dealer who had repeatedly threatened them. He also denied any intent to hurt the boyfriend. Therefore, he refused a plea bargain for five years of probation, and demanded a jury trial.

In 2009, Wollard was convicted of aggravated assault. Because the crime involved the discharge of a firearm he received a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years. In a sentencing hearing statement, Wollard said he felt like he was living in “some banana republic.” The judge sympathized, saying that were if not for the mandatory minimum he would impose a different sentence, but that he was “duty bound” to impose 20 years in prison.

Comment: Re:GTT/Nlayer (Score 1) 181 181

Once a company (Comcast) has a worse consumer rating then the IRS, it's just about impossible to recover anybody's trust.

They dug themselves that hole over a course of decades, so they have the reputation that they deserve. The fact that they became one of the remaining five ISPs shows that when the business environment is monopolistic, the worst will be the survivors

If someone could wave a magic wand and have immediate competition in the ISP market (with lots of new players) Comcast wouldn't last six months because of their bad reputation. That is the way the system is supposed to work.

Remember ISP stands for Internet Service Provider. Comcast forget that.

Comment: Re:What an amazing surprise! (Score 4, Informative) 181 181

Yes. If you're fed up (pun intended) with safe food and other consumables I suggest that you order the cheapest possible products directly from China. Unlike the commies here in the US, manufacturers there are mostly unencumbered by effective regulation, so anything goes. It's unregulated capitalism at it's finest:

Soy sauce made from human hair.

Poisonous alcohol made from industrial alcohol.

Counterfeit drugs, including antibiotics with a disinfectant as an ingredient.

Tainted meat from all kinds of animals: pork, beef, lamb and chicken, but also cat meat sold as rabbit, poisoned snails, and goat urine treated duck.

And always a big favorite: cooking oil filtered from sewage.

When you strongly regulate something the effects are negative for the consumer!

Comment: Re: And so, what is wrong with this? (Score 1) 83 83

Right now Europe is far more scared of the US going out of control than they are of Russia

You're absolutely right. That's why Europeans are asking that Russia predeploy heavy weapons in their territory in case of military actions.

RIGA, Latvia — In a significant move to deter possible Russian aggression in Europe, the Pentagon is poised to store battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 American troops in several Baltic and Eastern European countries, American and allied officials say.

The proposal, if approved, would represent the first time since the end of the Cold War that the United States has stationed heavy military equipment in the newer NATO member nations in Eastern Europe that had once been part of the Soviet sphere of influence. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine have caused alarm and prompted new military planning in NATO capitals.

Uhh, something is backwards about this...

Comment: Re: build a hollow molecule big enough (Score 1) 22 22

General Products spaceship hulls were (almost) impervious to anything:

A General Products hull is "an artificially-generated giant molecule, with the inter-atomic bonds artificially strengthened", causing the hull to resist "any kind of impact, and heat in the hundreds of thousands of degrees" (from Flatlander). In Fleet of Worlds, the characters learn that the bonds of the giant molecule are "artificially strengthened" by a small power plant in the hull. By aiming a very powerful laser at it (since GP hulls are transparent to visible light), one can destroy the power plant, and destroy the hull. Gravity attracts the hull and its contents normally, but not even close approach to the event horizon of a black hole can damage the hull. However, tidal stress will kill anything outside the ship's center of mass (from Neutron Star), and the hull probably could not survive entering a black hole's singularity. Furthermore, a General Products hull can be destroyed by antimatter. Hyperdrive affects General Products hulls, since it is used by the ships to travel. From the text of stories involving stasis boxes, it is implied that the "hyperwave" pulses used for probing for them are not reflected by General Products hulls, though whether these are absorbed or penetrate is unclear.

Niven used a similar material scrith for the structural material of the Ringworld.

Scrith is milky-gray translucent in color, and is a nearly frictionless material. The fairly thin layer of scrith that forms the floor of the Ringworld blocks the passage of 40% of the Neutrinos that encounter it, equivalent to almost an Earth-lightyear of lead. It also absorbs nearly 100% of all other radiation and subatomic particles and rapidly dissipates heat. The tensile strength of scrith is theorized to be similar to the Strong nuclear force, with the Ringworld foundation only measuring about 30m (100 ft) thick. It is transparent to magnetic fields.

Due to its enormous strength, scrith is impervious to most weapons. A body (such as a comet or asteroid) striking with enough kinetic energy may be able to deform the Ringworld floor enough to puncture it. The Ringworld engineers used a device, called the Cziltang Brone in the City Builder language, to pass from the vacuum of the rim spaceports through the scrith to the habitable surfaces of the Ringworld.

Comment: Re:Project administrators held PRC passports! (Score 1) 142 142

You really think all this just started with Obama?

Then I have a question: do you hang your KKK robes in the closet where they won't get wrinkled but someone might easily see them, or do you fold them up in a drawer where they will get wrinkles, but it's likely that you would be found out?

Comment: Re:Republicans: Hypocrit Much? (Score 1) 91 91

You're right. The DHS/OPM are not trustworthy. As these events show, they are self serving bureaucracies that put their institutional welfare ahead of their institutional responsibilities.

But having no meaningful regulatory framework makes it all worse. Who's in charge? There's been a monumental screw up, but with no rules or formal chain of command how can responsibility be determined?

Without some kind of accountability the response will certainly be inadequate. If you want another horrible example of that, just look at all the financial sector. Irresponsible behavior lead to the 2008 crash, no individual or institution was held accountable, and now we are seeing another go round of grotesquely illegal activity.

My original point was that a combination of greed and irresponsible ideology has had a profound impact on US cybersecurity as a whole. Now we are paying for these mistakes, but given recent history (think the war in Iraq) it seems certain that nothing will fundamentally change. Those with critical responsibility fail miserably and they are not held personally accountable in any way. As long as that is "normal" we will continue to get screwed.

Comment: Republicans: Hypocrit Much? (Score 3, Insightful) 91 91

So now the Republican Congress is screaming about government cyber security, and demanding that the ebil imcompotent burocrats DO SOMETHING RIGHT NOW!!!

The trouble is, those same Republicans have derailed national cyber security regulations since Obama has been in office. It's all been channeled through the US Chamber of Commerce.

Comprehensive cybersecurity regulatory reform failed for the second time this year in the U.S. Senate, increasing the prospects that the White House will implement some of the bill’s provisions through an executive order.

The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 failed to get the 60 votes needed under Senate rules to bring the bill up for passage Nov. 14, 2012, most likely dashing any chance that cybersecurity policy would be addressed in the lame-duck session.

“Whatever we do for this bill is not enough for the Chamber of Commerce,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the floor immediately after the failed cloture vote. “Cybersecurity is dead for this Congress,” he added. Republicans blocked the same measure in August 2012, saying it would lead to more government regulation of business.

So that was pretty much the end of it. The Obama administration declared some executive orders, but that clearly did not have much impact. Up until this latest incident the Party of Ignorance (R) got what they wanted: keep you hands off my bidness.

So no one should be very surprised that this happened. There is no bright line between big government and big business when it comes to matters like cybersecurity. Particularly with the amount of outsourcing going on. Don't forget that the OPM breach was not simply in a government network, but at security contractor USIS.

A background investigation firm with OPM, DHS, and other federal agency contracts notified the government that it identified an unlawful breach of its network. In a statement posted on the website today, USIS noted that it was working with the government to determine the ‘nature and extent’ of the attack. They acknowledged that it appeared to be a state-sponsored attack.

The firm is already under fire for allegations of contractor misconduct. The Justice Department sued the company earlier this year for poor oversight of security clearance investigations, and a White House panel investigated bonuses received by USIS executives.

The DHS/OPM/whatever are doing everything they can to cover up what really happened, so the trail to the contractors has been rather effectively hidden. They primarily want to keep evidence of their vast incompetency out of the public eye. That is taking precedence over remedial action to address the breach. This is why they are leaving the roughly 4 million government employees at risk just hanging in the breeze. If they were to do the responsible thing and help the victims it would reveal how extensively they failed.

Remember, horribly incompetent government security contractors are the new normal: Blackwater in Iraq, the TSA meatheads who infest airports, and now this. No one should be surprised. And they should be even less surprised when no one is held accountable and nothing changes.

Comment: Re:Comparative advantage (Score 1) 173 173

So this is kind of like H1B visas for space.

1. Line the pockets of the rich entrenched power brokers.

2. Degrade the US technological base.

3. Send money and support technology for long term rivals.

Given the above it's a slam dunk. It's the American Way!

The rule on staying alive as a forecaster is to give 'em a number or give 'em a date, but never give 'em both at once. -- Jane Bryant Quinn