Latest Posts from Ryan Jones


The Core of Apple v. FBI

If you haven’t read Apple’s open letter to customers yet, you really should. As Apple points out,

Some would argue that building a backdoor for just one iPhone is a simple, clean-cut solution. But it ignores both the basics of digital security and the significance of what the government is demanding in this case.

In today’s digital world, the “key” to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it. Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.

Rich Mogull expands upon this concept in a very convincing way that gets to the core of the issue here.

Everything, all of it, boils down to a single question.

Do we have a right to security?

Vendors like Apple have hit the point where some of the products they make, for us, are so secure that it is nearly impossible, if not impossible, to crack them. As a lifetime security professional, this is what my entire industry has been dreaming of since the dawn of computers. Secure commerce, secure communications, secure data storage. A foundation to finally start reducing all those data breaches, to stop China, Russia and others from wheedling their way into our critical infrastructure. To make phones so secure they almost aren’t worth stealing, since even the parts aren’t worth much.

To build the secure foundation for the digital age that we so lack, and so desperately need. So an entire hospital isn’t held hostage because one person clicked on the wrong link.

The FBI, DOJ, and others are debating if secure products and services should be legal. They hide this in language around warrants and lawful access, and scream about terrorists and child pornographers. What they don’t say, what they never admit, is that it is physically impossible to build in back doors for law enforcement without creating security vulnerabilities.

One of the significant reasons I have been so enthused by Apple throughout the years is that their hardware is focused upon providing technical solutions that not only make the world a better place, but do so in manners that aim to eliminate real world challenges.

Take TouchID for instance. No other company has created a solution that is as secure and because of this purity, it is all but impossible for bad guys to hack the software to gain access to your banking information that has formed the security basis for Apple Pay. As a result, fraud is impossible with Apple Pay unless someone actually has possession of your credit card information, which really has nothing to do with Apple Pay fraud at all (and which is no different than stealing a person’s wallet. It’s more stealing than it is fraud).

TouchID is so brilliant precisely because the security design places every aspect of the implementation upon the hardware itself. The fingerprint information gets stored within a walled off area of the processor, a secure element that received device-specific provisioning when manufactured, unavailable to any system or network besides the TouchID sensor. The data is not saved in software, accessible for clever hackers to search out vulnerabilities. No, it resides on the hardware itself, and when the phone is locked, all keys to files and keychain items are wiped and inaccessible until the read-only secure element processes a fingerprint match received from TouchID input.

Let’s apply what the FBI is requesting in the San Bernardino case to Apple Pay, because it demonstrates the exact point that Mogull is making. Fleshing out the technical-nature of this example helps us understand the hypotheticals posed. If Apple were to design a backdoor into Apple Pay, they would be destroying the integrity of the security design behind Apple Pay altogether, exposing the software to everyone and giving anyone with the know-how access to reverse engineer the design in order to expose potential weaknesses. Software is merely instructions and there’s always a way to work around those instructions. This simple fact is precisely the problem with digital security since computers were invented.

Said another way, if Apple were to design an exception for the FBI by requiring software workarounds, we will forever be dealing with systems that are inherently insecure. The horrible atrocity in San Bernardino already occurred. But in the government’s desire to gain access to information surrounding the event (assuming that it proves useful at all) will only create more danger for citizens, since all data will be subject to abuses to bad guys with ill-intent (and speaking nothing to the potential for government overreach).

I’ll end with another paragraph from Mogull.

The FBI wants this case to be about a single phone used by a single dead terrorist in San Bernadino to distract us from asking the real question. It will not stop at this one case, that isn’t how the law works. They are also teaming with legislators to make encrypted, secure devices and services illegal. That isn’t conspiracy theory, it is the stated position of the director of the FBI. Eventually they want systems to access any device or form of communications, at scale. As they already have with our phone system. Keep in mind that there is no way to limit this to consumer technologies, and it will have to apply to business systems as well, undermining corporate security.


A couple political, but not partisan, thoughts

  1. Paul Krugman highlighted Speaker Paul Ryan’s absurd comments denying Obama credit for the current state of the economy after Obama highlighted his actions in getting us to this stage in major portions of Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.Speaker Ryan stated:

    “I think the Federal Reserve has done more,” he said. “What’s happening is people at the high end are doing pretty darn well because of loose money from the Fed. And all these regulations, all this uncertainty, all these taxes are giving us weak economic growth.”

    So, according to Ryan, Obama deserves no credit for the Bernanke led Fed monetary decisions back in 2011, since it was all Bernanke. Yet, back in 2011, then-House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan criticized those Bernanke Fed policies.

    Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the new chairman of the House Budget Committee and a vocal skeptic of the Fed’s bond-buying effort, told Mr. Bernanke: “My concern is that the costs of the Fed’s current monetary policy — the money creation and massive balance sheet expansion — will come to outweigh the perceived short-term benefits.”

    Mr. Ryan described “a sharp rise in a variety of key global commodity and basic material prices,” and an increase in interest rates of longer-term Treasury securities. And while conceding that American consumers were not yet experiencing substantially higher prices, Mr. Ryan warned that “the inflation dynamic can be quick to materialize and painful to eradicate once it takes hold.”

    Mr. Ryan all but accused Mr. Bernanke of devaluing the dollar, saying, “There is nothing more insidious that a country can do to its citizens than debase its currency.”

    So Ryan’s argument is that Obama deserves no credit for Fed policy that led to our current state of the economy, but Ryan hated the Fed policy that led to our current state, and would have likely been dismantled and replaced them with an austerity plan that has worked oh so well for the rest of the world around us.

  2. This brings me to another point that seems like a somewhat common retort of the Obama presidency by right-of-center folks (that has leaked into the public consciousness generally). I was speaking to a relative over the holidays and his general view regarding current economic optimism went something like this: People are so quick to applaud Obama for restoring the economy, but let’s be honest, we were in such bad shape anyone could have made things better.Such a viewpoint underscores the tremendously horrible job our media does in explaining even the most basic policies we take as a nation to manage our economy. In 2008 (and even ’til this day) there’s a consensus from the right that the proper course of action in dire economic situations is to adopt more austere measures (aka spending cuts, decreasing welfare and job insurance benefits, etc.) to fight against troubles plaguing a lagging economy. It doesn’t matter the challenges facing that economy, whether they be major employment slack, an abnormal banking sector that isn’t loaning money as typically done, or a real estate market that was in tailspin due to the plethora of oversold, bad mortgages that were bundled with other good mortgages causing pretty much all of them to be tainted and therefore deeply hindering real-estate secured consumer spending that kept our economy afloat since right after the turn of the millennium. 

    The underlying economic policies of both parties is a hugely important difference between them and we have examples all around the globe of nations who embraced the same strategies backed by the GOP when recession hit. So there’s a major difference between the American economy over the past seven years, that welcomed investment by the Government to overcome decreased private spending, as opposed to nations who took a very different, much more austere plan, in Europe, South America, and Asia, who are still struggling—and creating downward pressures upon the world economy today.
    The bailout of General Motors. Ensuring that TARP was properly pushed and passed. Quantitative Easing. All examples of efforts Obama backed that, had they not been passed, would have left our country in an entirely different economic reality. In Europe, we watch Germany demand that debt ridden countries like Greece make good on their debts before assisting further. And we wonder why the U.S. Economy is very different than the EUs today. These things matter.

  3. Finally, a completely unrelated thought that I found intriguing from Christie’s State of the State. He announced an effort to increase access to care for mental health and substance abuse in his address.

    Today, I’m very proud to announce a historic financial commitment of more than $100 million to increase access to care for mental health and substance use.

    We’re going to provide more competitive reimbursement rates for services and providers.

    As demand for services continues to grow, we also need to widen access. Increased reimbursement rates will help improve critical services and provide more treatment capacity. The investment we’re making will change lives and get more people into treatment earlier, instead of the emergency room or prison later. It’s the fiscally responsible thing to do – and it’s the morally right thing to do.

    Let’s highlight that last sentence: It’s the fiscally responsible thing to do – and it’s the morally right thing to do. Fiscally responsible.

    I can’t see Christie winning the presidential primary with the current political winds. I’ve said it many times that 2016 feels eerily similar to 1968 in terms of historic relevance to the world of political science. Many people smarter than me believe we’re overdue for a political realignment of the parties, and the rise of Trump and Sanders feels like there might be something interesting going on.

    But I think at some point, Christie will play a role in rebranding the GOP, because, despite his actual policies’ dissonance, he understands how to pull at the heartstrings of normal, everyday people. That’s why that whole fiscally responsible thing intrigues me. Since Reagan, the GOP definition of fiscally responsible, at least when addressing populist ideas, is that cuts = fiscally responsible. Over this same period, democrats, in my opinion, less successfully, have argued that fiscal responsibility = finding savings.

    Christie’s solution is to invest $100 million into a program—not cut funding. That’s not a traditional GOP view, these days. Of course investments like this are estimated to produce $400 to $700 million, but that’s the type of argument liberals make when explaining why the Affordable Care Act, or food stamps, or the EITC, or unemployment insurance is a good deal. The GOP typically lambasts that sort of idea, since they feel government spending interferes with market forces and crowds out investments.

    I don’t really have an ultimate point for bringing this up. I merely find it intriguing that a Republican with such a big spotlight is making arguments like that. Feels modestly Keynesian. 


AT LONG LAST…MY “STAR WARS: EPISODE VII” REVIEW. THE FORCE AWAKENS & THE RISE OF IDIOT JOURNALISM.

This was so satisfying to read. I loved the big shock at the end related to the author of the HuffPo piece. Response pieces like this won’t do anything to rid the world of clickbait; even so, it provides such catharsis.

By the way, I enjoyed “The Force Awakens” and thought the meta-storytelling techniques were hugely satisfying. J.J. Abrams gets the cultural influence Star Wars has played and makes repeated nods to this. For instance, Han Solo not being on the Millennium Falcon for 30 years is used as a plot device in the film, but I can’t help but think that the real reason for this plot decision is because we haven’t been on the Millennium Falcon for 30 years. We are part of the story.

My money is on Rey being a Skywalker, but I’m deeply rooting for her to be a Kenobi for so many reasons.

Well, I’ve waited a few weeks to write my “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” review and finally, after multiple viewings and numerous vibrant discussions, I feel that I’m ready to give this movie the review it truly deserves.

I gave the film a ton of time to sink in. I analyzed the story structure and plot. I got to know the characters, both new and old, and came to understand the motivations and performances of the actors portraying them. I prepared myself to gush over the rollicking relationship between Poe Dameron and his new Stormtrooper pal, Finn, the brilliant puppeteering of BB-8 and the star-making performance of Daisy Ridley as the burgeoning Jedi known simply as Rey. I was ready to tell you about how much I adored the direction the filmmakers took with the legacy characters of Han, Leia and Luke while making Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren one of the most layered and interestingly flawed villains I’ve ever seen. I was excited to prognosticate over clues that were left in the film to set up the remainder of the series. Sure, the movie has its flaws. It’s a little heavy on the nostalgia and there are a few moments that are little too convenient for me, but there are a million other things I loved that quickly outweighed those problems. I’ve spent the last few weeks searching for precisely the right words to convey just how excited “The Force Awakens” has made me for the future of the franchise and planning how I would use those words to write a fair and balanced review.
But as I sit down to write that review…I simply can’t.

And here’s why…

The Huffington Post’s article, “40 Unforgivable Plot Holes in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens”.

Over the last few weeks I saw this article reposted over and over both by folks in the film industry and outside of it. The reposts often carried captions from Facebook users like “Yep!” or “This is exactly my problem”. Oh shit. Did I miss something? Maybe the Huffington Post and half of Facebook saw something I didn’t. I needed to know more. So I read the article. I read it numerous times. In the end, I came to my own conclusion…

The Huffington Post has no idea what the fuck it’s talking about.

I don’t know about the rest of you but I’ve grown exhausted with the horseshit, hater culture that online, millennial ‘journalists’ use to click-bait their way to some sort of self-perceived intellectual high ground. Hate first. Don’t bother asking questions later.

After all the thought and effort I put into prepping my review, the Huffington Post article had somehow stunted my ability to write about the new “Star Wars” movie. But I refused to be deterred. Thus, this article is not intended to review “The Force Awakens”. It’s intended to rip the head off the Huffington Post’s dumb-ass review and shit down its still-gasping esophagus.

Now, keep in mind I’m not a professional reviewer or even a journalist. I’m just a regular guy who has spent the better part of his life dedicated to studying story structure, plot, character, scene study and script development while working on twenty some-odd motion pictures over the last seventeen years. I might not be the guy to question the Huffington Post’s lofty review, but I’ll give it a shot.

So what are these “40 Unforgivable Plot Holes” and why is the Huffington Post ass-backward in their review? I blame it partly on the click-bait era. I also think that being a contrarian dick makes people feel intelligent. But those aren’t the reasons the review is horseshit. It’s horseshit because it really seems like the reviewer didn’t watch the movie at all.

Let’s take a look at these 40 “holes” and see just how hard I can plug them.

Take a read. It’s worth it.


Death to Bullshit

Awesome new site from Brad Frost.

People’s capacity for bullshit is rapidly diminishing.

When information is cheap, attention becomes expensive.
-James Gleick


Is the Answer to Lobbying More Lobbying?

Great thinkpiece by Lee Drutman over at the Washington Post blog, Monkey Cage.

The conventional wisdom about political influence is often summed up in the familiar three-word mantra: “follow the money.” It’s a mantra that assumes politics is a high-dollar vending machine with politicians and policies for sale. It suggests an obvious solution: get all the money out of politics. And while we’re at it, let’s also get rid of all the lobbyists, and all the “special interests.” Let’s make it so that Congress is “dependent upon the People alone,” as Larry Lessig put it, channeling James Madison.

I suspect this how many people want democracy to work. But it’s simply the wrong way to think about it, and it points to the wrong solution too. If we are concerned about the influence of special interests and lobbyists, we need to embrace a seemingly counterintuitive solution: more lobbying. But also different lobbying – lobbying that offsets the power of concentrated interests, not simply reinforces it.

The concept espoused is simple: people don’t really think special interests are per se bad, since, your and my viewpoints are…the views of special interests. What I think people mean when they say they want to get rid of lobbyists and special interests is that they want to get rid of the imbalance of power implied in the notion of lobbyists and special interests today. Democracy is about hearing all sides of a particular debate and ensuring that democratic principles play out.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of money in politics since first hearing of the “Tullock Paradox” in scholarly work from Tyler Cowen. The Tullock Paradox describes a concept seen in lobbying.

The term Tullock paradox refers to the apparent paradox first observed by the public choice economist Gordon Tullock on the low costs of rent-seeking relative to the gains from rent-seeking. The paradox is basically that rent-seekers seeking political favors can usually bribe politicians to give them the favors at a cost much lower than the value of the favor to the rent-seeker. For instance, a rent seeker who hopes to gain a billion dollars from a particular political policy may need to bribe politicians only to the tune of ten million dollars, which is about 1% of the gain to the rent-seeker.

Put simply, the Tullock Paradox demonstrates the incentive for corporate entities (mostly) to engage in lobbying, because the cost to them is typically orders of magnitude lower than possible benefits received if successful.

Tyler Cowen links to a perfect example of this on his blog.

According to statistics United Republic assembled, the prescription drug industry spent $116 million lobbying for legislation to prevent Medicare from bargaining down drug prices — legislation that enabled drug companies to make an additional $90 billion annually. That amounts to an extraordinary 77,500 percent return on investment. Oil companies, in turn, had a return on investment of 5,900 percent, and multinational companies, 22,000 percent….

For example, the Carmen Group, a Washington lobbying firm, boasted on its Web site that for every dollar it collected in fees, clients got $100 in benefits.

There’s a Constitutional law concept espoused in equal protection and due process jurisprudence popularized by John Stuart Mill, referred to as the “Tyranny of the Majority”. The basic concept is that one of democracy’s central flaws is the ability of a perceived majority to place its own interests above a minority group. Particularly in the post-Citizens United world, I think the metaphor of this concept can be extended to the problem many see as a significant challenge currently facing our political democracy.

Lee Drutman continues,

The types of organized interests we might expect to provide a countervailing force to business — labor unions, groups representing diffuse publics like consumers or taxpayers – now spend $1 for every $34 business spends on lobbying, by my count. That’s up from a 1-to-22 ratio in 1998. Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying annually, consistently 95 represent business.

Those are some astounding statistics and underscore the Tyranny of the Majority concept, the majority here, being related to the central tenet of Citizens United, that money is speech. Controlling a majority of the money, it would seem, means controlling a majority of the speech.

The solution posed by Drutman is a fascinating one, which I need to give significantly more thought to. Much in the same way the U.S. Justice system is premised upon the right to a trial by peers, which, in turn, creates the need for a public defender’s office to defend qualifying defendants, Drutman proposes the idea of public lobbyists, either done through public matching of funds or direct subsidy. His rationale is that certain voices aren’t fully represented, and this would ensure certain aspects of democracy can be protected.

The idea to create any new government agency should always be served with a large dose of skepticism, particularly when purposeful underfunding of that entity would create intentional ineffectiveness. But the idea is novel and appears to address one of the most complicated challenges facing our democracy today.


Politico presents stupid theses

Here’s the latest from Politico: Abortion bill’s collapse shows moderates’ clout

John Boehner has a new balancing act: Handling the moderate backbencher resurgence.

That’s their opening line. First off, the GOP’s strategy since 2013 has been to avoid outing extreme conservative ideas, which is why they had such little success in 2012. The midterms were all about laying low, and after the government shutdown, Boehner really buckled down and shut up the fringe in his party that were hurting them at the polls. Because, while the base pushes for an ever more conservative agenda, which is generally good in midterms, it isn’t anywhere near as effective in Presidential years when our electorate is built much different, demographically. Perhaps 2014 demonstrated that even in the midterms, ideological purity may be off-putting, which is why the GOP avoided much of the discussions of abortion, etc. last year.

But I think Politico’s thesis is incredibly simplistic, and even wrong. There isn’t a moderate backbench resurgence that the parties are catering to. When elections roll around, both parties are focusing a majority of their attention towards a narrow swath within the same general demographic that tend to be more fluid in their voting habits, and hence independent, than entrenched, partisan, ones. If I had to describe that demographic, they would be white, middle-class, and college educated, conveniently known as “soccer moms”, as this group tends to vary election to election more than possibly any other group. It’s the one group of whites where the GOP does not win with significant margins and could be particularly damaging in a Presidential election that features a woman at the top of the Democratic ticket. Capturing this demographic, or I should say, ensuring this group comes to the polls, in my view, is what wins a majority of general elections (assuming your base is energized and excited, not necessarily a guarantee these days).

I grow more tired of the momentum narratives told by the media as each day passes. While convenient, our political sentiment cannot be explained solely by policy decisions made by leaders during that year. New demographic groups do not just magically appear or resurface. Policy choices cater to specific portions of the electorate that hold different weight depending upon the realities of particular election cycles. When turnout varies so widely from one election year to the next depending upon the emphasis placed upon particular election years by the media and the public’s perception of the relative importance of particular elections (say, for president, as opposed to a “mere” local election), it’s clear that momentum plays a much more muted role in political outcomes than does the average type of person that comes out on any given year. There’s a reason why presidential elections tend to be younger and browner. And that reality has an effect on results.

Theses that ignore these simple truths (however upsetting and unsettling they may be), are quite simply, stupid.


Dynamic Scoring of CBO gets rid of Congressional Referees

This is ripe.
Why the Republican Congress’s First Act Was to Declare War on Math

The first substantive act of the new, all-Republican Congress was a telling one: House and Senate leaders, now in partisan accord and able to impose an undiluted partisan imprint upon the institution, struck a blow in their decades-long struggle on behalf of low taxes for the rich and against the bookkeeping standards that have stood in their way. In a rapid vote yesterday, the House directed the Congressional Budget Office to use “dynamic scoring” — a Washington term of art to describe imposing conservative ideology upon the once-neutral task of measuring the budgetary impact of legislation.

The Congressional Budget Office [“CBO”] is a 40-year-old institution that has acquired enormous clout within Washington by virtue of its reputation for ideological neutrality. It furnishes Congress and the public with budgetary estimates that, if necessarily imperfect (as all predictions must be), are arrived at fairly. It is also a perfect modern expression of an old Progressive Era–ideal: that policymakers should be informed by the work of impartial experts. That the conservative majority has set out to corrupt this institution as one of its first major acts is, therefore, perfectly fitting.

What is Dynamic Scoring? In simple terms, we can think of it like this: Under the old method of Static Scoring, if the government spent $1 on an apple seed, the CBO would calculate the cost of that seed to be whatever estimate it concluded to be the direct economic benefit of that spending (for random example, let’s say that in today’s terms, a $1 apple seed is worth $1.25 to the GDP). Under Dynamic Scoring, if the government spent that same $1 on an apple seed, the CBO would now be tasked with estimating the future macroeconomic effects of this spending. So instead of $1 creating $0.25, CBO would need to make significant assumptions about that seed, and perhaps conclude that the production of apples from this seed would lead more people than today to consume apples, that this increased demand would create more apple farmer jobs, and that the resulting job growth would lead to increased tax revenues. Such dynamic effects could make that $1 spent seem worth significantly more.

Two thoughts on this:

  1. The CBO is supposed to Congress’ scorekeepers. While there are notable problems with static scoring, since it takes microeconomic assumptions into account (under static scoring, even that $1 apple seed would assume, for instance, that there’s $0.25 benefit, based upon market realities), it cannot predict future policy or events, and is agnostic about underlying policy decisions that do have real world effects. Adopting a dynamic system is inherently built upon biases. It forces assumptions that are incredibly difficult to predict and bases such assumptions upon variables that have not yet happened and may not actually occur.

    Continuing with our apple seed hypothetical, under static scoring, the $1.25 return on the $1 may be incorrect. It may only be $1.20. Or it may be $1.50 or cost us $0.50. But this is an issue of accuracy, not precision. Your variable was incorrect, but the methodology underlying it is sound and we can focus on improving that variable in future scoring.

    But using Dynamic Scoring makes precision incredibly difficult as well because the variables you are forced to predict compound. Multiplying three or six or 15 variables that can lead to outcomes that are not just inaccurate, but also imprecise. Thus, you can have in incredibly wide range of outcomes in Dynamic Scoring, that does not exist to the same extent with Static Scoring.

    We have to ask ourselves what the purpose of the CBO is in the first place. Economic predictions are incredibly difficult to make and thus, it is fairly likely that regardless of which scoring system you choose, you are going to have an accuracy issue. There’s no way around this. So even though accuracy should always be a goal, reality makes such a goal impossible to obtain. So then what? From most accounts, CBO exists to create a standardized and nonpartisan best and consistent prediction of the impact any change in policy will have on revenues and expenditures. Dynamic Scoring destroys hope that predictions for legislative impacts will lack precision, which is the entire point. Static Scoring evaluated a moment in time (i.e. currently, an apple seed creates $1.25 of value on GDP, even though it’s possible that an apple seed purchased today but used 10 years from now may only create a $1.20 return). Dynamic Scoring attempts to predict the future (i.e. an apple seed creates $1.25 of values on GDP today and since this is a net benefit, more apple farmers will plant apple seeds, which will lead to higher availability of apples, which will reduce the average sale price of apples reducing the effect on GDP to $1.05 in ten years).

  2. While I think Dynamic Scoring is unhealthy because of the precision problems it creates, I’m not per se opposed to it. Dynamic Scoring does get at the heart of a significant shortcoming of the existing way of scoring legislation: policy has real world effects (even if those effects are near impossible to consistently predict, considering the almost infinitesimal number of variables that may effect a given outcome).

    The real problem is how Congress has chosen to impliment Dynamic Scoring. The implications ensure that the only referees in the Congressional game will no longer be nonpartisan. As passed, Dynamic Scoring will only apply to Republican policies (cutting taxes), while Democratic policies (infrastructure, appropriations, social programs) will largely be exempt. That seems fair…

    Under the rules passed, Dynamic Scoring applies to legislation:

    • that impacts greater than 0.25% of GDP (or $43 billion)
    • excludes appropriations bills that are largely need-based projects that subsidize local projects that usually have multiplier effects on GDP

    As Representative Delaney (MD-6) writes,

    If dynamic scoring is truly about reflecting the on-the-ground impact of government action, it must be applied to both sides of the ledger: spending and revenue. Unfortunately, the Republicans’ new rule effectively amounts to dynamically scoring only tax cuts. It does this by excluding appropriations bills and stating that only “major” pieces of legislation — defined as affecting the economy annually by 0.25 percent of gross domestic product, or $43 billion per year — will be dynamically scored. While that sounds reasonable, only comprehensive tax reform bills would meet that threshold. Other bills that increase investments in infrastructure, education and research generally do not rise to that level.

    So tax cuts will be seen in a shiny new light, while smart investments will remain unattractive[, when scored]. One-half of the policy agenda will use one set of facts, while the other half will use a different set. This is intellectually dishonest, and it’s wrong.

Dynamic Scoring, as applied, is disingenuous and undermines open and efficient government. It’s no wonder it was the GOPs first order of business once taking control of both houses of Congress.


Howard Dean and the DNC

Great interview in Salon with Howard Dean and how he remade the Democratic Party in 2008.

Tell me about the origins of the 50-state strategy. What was the goal?

My experience from having campaigned and from being governor is that there are Democrats everywhere, and if you want to nurture the party you have to nurture all of them. If you focus only on the states that are mostly Democratic, it’s demoralizing to the other states. So you never get any growth. So the origin of the 50-state strategy was to be prepared to go anywhere. The idea was, if you ever wanted a Mark Begich, you had to invest in Alaska before a Mark Begich came on the horizon so you could be ready. Mark Begich is the example that I use. Nobody expected Ted Stevens to be indicted, but when he was, we were ready. So the origin was to invest in the party throughout the country. There was also another aspect to it. My strategy to win the presidency was to find a way to win without Ohio and Florida. Obama came along and ran an incredible campaign, which was great and very metric-oriented to get votes out. But I was prepared to preside over a Democratic campaign in 2008 where we didn’t win Florida or Ohio, but we win in the West, we’d win in Colorado, possibly Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. That would put us over the top, and would have as well for Kerry in 2004. So, that was another part of it.

Yeah, 2008 and 2004, but not 2010 or 2014. For as smart as Dean’s strategy is, the Democratic Party is forced to operate on two different arenas. The one used in Presidential years don’t work in the midterms. I’ve been working on a much longer piece to fully flesh this concept out which I hope to publish sometime.


NBA Commissioner supports sports betting

Adam Silver, Commissioner of the NBA, is the first sports executive to stop denying the reality of sports betting: that it currently operates in a gray zone, free of regulation, consumer protections, and financial transparency.

For more than two decades, the National Basketball Association has opposed the expansion of legal sports betting, as have the other major professional sports leagues in the United States. In 1992, the leagues supported the passage by Congress of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or Paspa, which generally prohibits states from authorizing sports betting.

But despite legal restrictions, sports betting is widespread. It is a thriving underground business that operates free from regulation or oversight. Because there are few legal options available, those who wish to bet resort to illicit bookmaking operations and shady offshore websites. There is no solid data on the volume of illegal sports betting activity in the United States, but some estimate that nearly $400 billion is illegally wagered on sports each year.

While gambling exposes citizens to a lot of challenges, these problems already exist in a sort of black market that only makes such problems more difficult to resolve. Good for Commissioner Silver for speaking the truth.


Elizabeth Warren rumored to move into new leadership role

Huge news for the soon to be Senate minority. Unlike the GOP, who’s messaging seems to be top notch (and often times better than the underlying policy), Warren is the rare Democrat that knows how to effectively frame messages. Should hopefully provide some much needed clarity and level the discourse of the parties.