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National Archives tells IRS to preserve instant messages too

Having accidentally released a series of emails between Lerner and another IRS official concerning whether the IRS instant message system is archived for Congressional inquiries (the answer was, not unless the user specifically turns it on), the National Archives has noticed and is informing the IRS that their instant message conversations must also be archived.

Which just means the IRS will switch to teleconference providers, I suppose. No one has tried to record all the telephone traffic within the IRS yet.

The problem here is not that the IRS doesn't realize these things need to be archived. The problem is that they do not want their communications archived, because they are up to no good.

I might sympathize if they were private citizens communicating with each other, but they aren't; they are government employees and their communications about their work are not private.

2014-07-12 17:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]


True the Vote's IRS lawsuit appears to have borne strange fruit. The judge in that case, Judge Walton, issued a brief order in the case. In reading it, I noticed the following:

During the July 11 hearing, counsel from the Department of Justice represented that an there is an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Inspector General of the United States Department of the Treasury concerning the emails and computer hard drive that are the subject of the plaintiff’s motion. Counsel further represented that the Inspector General’s investigation comprises, among other things, the same type of forensic examination sought by the plaintiff in its pending motion.

In short, the IRS is trying to argue that their internal investigation is already performing the same types of investigation that the plaintiffs (in this case, True the Vote) are requesting, including forensic examination.

You can't conduct a forensic examination of a hard drive that you don't have in physical custody.

(To be sure, you can copy a hard drive in various ways and then perform operations upon the copy of the data, but in order to recover data from a failed hard drive, you need the actual, physical drive as your starting point.)

The judge has also requested the serial numbers of Lerner's hard drive. This is another excellent insight; if the IRS has the drive, they can trivially provide the serial numbers. If they do not have it, they can perhaps recover the serial numbers from old IT tickets. Either way, forcing them to commit to a specific serial number will significant reduce the flexibility available to a cover up operation going forward.

At this point, it seems there are two primary possibilities.

Either the Inspector General examining the hard drive is honest, in which case we will see some if not all of Lerner's (and her co-conspirators) emails recovered and the physical hard drive produced for independent expert verification of the data recovered...

... or the Inspector General is not honest, and he will claim nothing could be recovered, or produce only innocuous communications while refusing to produce the physical hard drive for independent examination, perhaps claiming it was destroyed.

I view this claim by the IRS as an inadvertent admission that Lerner's physical hard drive still exists in a location known to the IRS and is available for examination. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a gun. Let's see if it's still smoking.

2014-07-12 10:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The way to identify violent people is to look for people who have been violent before

In other words, advocacy for mental health checks and blame of the “mentally ill” for violence in the U.S. is not only unfair, it is a ruse intended to hide the real reasons for the advocacy, which is to intrude on civil rights and the moral duty of self defense.

I've pointed out in the context of the firearms debate before that our knowledge and understanding of mental illness is not good enough (and may not ever be good enough) to identify people who will be violent before they actually commit violence.

Our choices seem to be either locking up everyone who shows significant signs of mental illness, which we did until sometime in the 1960s; declining to lock up the mentally ill, but applying a firearms restriction to a (likely much larger) percentage of the population in the hopes of preventing a mass shooting, with a very large false positive rate; or tolerating some number of mass shootings by people who avoided the current standards for involuntary commitment.

I think there is actually a fourth choice: relying roughly on the current legal standard for involuntary commitment and firearms prohibition, which (mostly) provides for due process, and focusing on actually applying that standard to individuals who commit acts of violence.

When you read back into the history of individuals who commit mass shootings, there are usually clues and points of contact with law enforcement that could have resulted in a firearms prohibition for that person, had such been sought. Sometimes (as with the Columbine shooters) there actually is a firearms prohibition in place, and the shooter manages to get around it. But in many cases there are a few minor incidents of violence that do not get formally handled, or do not rise to a formal, permanent restriction on firearms ownership.

We can't sit everyone who wants to buy a gun on a psychiatrist's couch and predict with any certainty whether they will ever become violent. But, as a society, we are consistently failing to apply existing laws to those who are violent. And the results are tragic.

2014-07-12 09:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]


Talking about Lerner's email inquiring whether the IRS' internal instant messaging system was logged, Issa told Fox News:

She was trying to make sure that on April 9th of 2013 that her people weren't being tracked. ... Why? She didn't want an audit trail of what they were doing. And what they were doing were targeting conservatives for their views. No question at all."

A Lefty blogger writes in response:

You just have to marvel at that, particularly the way Issa states matter of factly, with no evidence whatsoever, that "what they were doing were targeting conservatives for their views. No question at all." Equally marvelous is his attempt to suggest that Lerner's appropriate, professional caution about email is somehow "smoking gun" proof that two years earlier, she had intentionally destroyed her own hard drive and forced IT specialists inside the IRS to conspire in that destruction, all in an effort to hide evidence in an investigation that she didn't even know was occurring.

Well, let's see. Lerner admitted, publicly, with a planted question at a press conference, that her division of the IRS was targeting conservatives. She admitted that it took place, and apologized for it. The Inspector General issued a report about it. There's no question at all that it took place, or that it was inappropriate.

As for the "professional caution" argument: sure, you can read Lerner's email that way. You can also read it to be Lerner making sure that instant message conversations are safe from Congressional oversight, so that the IRS conspiracy to target conservative groups will not be discovered. In a different context, the "professional caution" might fly. But in the context of two years worth of missing emails from Lerner and 6 of her colleagues, and known and admittedly inappropriate targeting, and multiple prior emails obtained from the administration that abruptly close down discussion in favor of moving to an unrecorded format (typically a phone call), it does not read like a professional caution not to make off-color jokes because Congress might not appreciate them. It reads like a caution to avoid saying anything that might get her in trouble. And it makes me wonder what was being said on those instant-message conversations.

Because if Lerner was just offering a professional caution, there's no reason not to share the instant message traffic with a Congressional inquiry, just to be sure there's nothing improper going on, right?

2014-07-11 13:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Senate Judiciary Committee votes to repeal the 1st Amendment

Not all of the First Amendment, mind you, just the pesky parts about political speech. And the media? I'm betting on crickets.

2014-07-11 12:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

IRS ordered to explain missing emails under oath

This is a federal judge in the Judicial Watch case. The IRS has 30 days to figure it out and to explain what happened under oath. The "under oath" bit means that perjury charges are in play as well as contempt of court.

This falls short of ordering physical production of materials, which is unfortunate but might be remedied later on once the IRS has filed their explanation.

2014-07-11 11:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Rep Stockman introduces resolution to arrest and confine Lois Lerner

I think this is the only way that Congress is going to make any progress. Holder will not conduct an honest investigation, much less prosecute anyone. The Senate will not entertain a serious impeachment trial as currently composed. We do not, yet, have enough evidence for an airtight case against Obama personally. The only way to get that evidence is to put pressure on Lerner, who is ideologically committed to Obama and will not talk willingly even if granted immunity.

I wouldn't expect this to go anywhere quickly. It's most useful as a threat in negotiating for immunity. But putting it on the table, officially, is a good start.

2014-07-11 10:35:27.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The Society of Professional Journalists is finally, after 6 years, smelling the coffee

In many cases, this is clearly being done to control what information journalists – and the audience they serve – have access to. A survey found 40 percent of public affairs officers admitted they blocked certain reporters because they did not like what they wrote.

Of course politicians and bureaucrats try to control the media and the information provided to the public. If we actually had independent, professional journalism in this country, journalists would not need to be told this, and would happily go around, under, above, and even through attempts at censorship. Instead, for the most part journalists have acquiesced in covering Obama as the messiah, and acted as his praetorian guard.

2014-07-11 10:15:09.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Cochran's payments violate FEC rules; campaign admits screw-up

A $53,000 admitted screw-up is a hell of a way to try to back out of alleged vote-buying:

Cochran’s campaign has faced allegations of vote-buying after Johnson reported last week on the claims of a self-declared minister who said he was given large sums of cash and instructed to pay African-Americans $15 each to vote for Cochran in the runoff election. Barbour said that the payments to Shook should have been listed as cash payments to dozens of get-out-the-vote workers, and called the filing a “screw up.”

It's not paying people in cash that's the problem; it's what you allegedly told at least one of the "campaign workers" to do with the cash.

In related news, True the Vote -- famous for being targeted by the IRS and other government agencies -- has filed for a restraining order to prevent destruction of election evidence by pro-Cochran officials.

2014-07-11 09:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Koskinen has lost all credibility

He sees nothing suspicious about Lerner warning people that Congress might look at their emails, so they should be careful about what they write in an email, and asking whether the IRS instant-messaging system is similarly archived and available to Congress. He prefers to blame Bush and ask for more money.

I suggest that Congress immediately write legislation providing for permanent archiving of all instant-message servers used within government agencies.

2014-07-10 17:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

An interesting contrast

Another mass shooting arising from a domestic dispute:

A lone gunman has killed at least six people, including four children, during a domestic dispute in Texas that triggered an armed standoff with police.

"We got him in a cul-de-sac," Mr Hickman said, after at least an hour had passed during which the suspect sat in his vehicle surrounded by about 50 police officers with their guns drawn. There were at least a dozen patrol cars waiting to pounce.

Someone said recently that it doesn't matter if a good guy has a gun or a bad guy has a gun, that just the presence of the gun is the problem.

1 bad guy, 1 gun.

50 good guys, 50 guns.

If Ana Marie Cox was right, the 50 armed policemen were making the situation worse.

2014-07-10 16:35:27.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

IRS will be facing judges today and tomorrow on missing evidence

The IRS has to make two separate appearances in two separate cases before two separate judges in two separate courtrooms. Making things interesting, both judges have the legal authority, moral compass and courageous personality to appoint a special prosecutor if the IRS does not comply with the court’s orders. This week the IRS finds itself in the ring with two fair, honest, just, venerable and no-nonsense judges: Emmet G. Sullivan, appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Reggie Walton, appointed by President George W. Bush. With Judges Sullivan and Walton in the ring, the IRS can no longer run and can no longer hide.

I don't know the judges involved, of course, but this article provides some useful background.

I continue to be somewhat skeptical about the results that can be achieved here. If the IRS truly has a guilty conscience, the emails are gone -- and so is the storage media they were stored on. That will no doubt be embarrassing for the IRS to admit in court, twice in as many days, but if they no longer have physical possession of the hard drives it's all they can do.

The way to move forward here is to demand the hard drives, sanction any failure to produce them, and appoint a special prosecutor to look for them (and any alternative locations for the same data) if they are not produced. We cannot continue to allow the IRS to stonewall the investigations by summoning political appointees to give new excuses every month or so. A faster pace is necessary.

2014-07-10 15:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Judicial Watch obtains new IRS emails

The documents seem to confirm the existence of an email that ordered the targeting of "Tea Party" applications. That email has since gone missing.

Crime and cover up.

2014-07-10 15:07:47.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Massachussetts House passes gun control bill

The NRA apparently negotiated some concessions, so it isn't as bad as it could have been, but still pretty bad. MA already required permission from the state to purchase a gun, and this legislation appears to make it easier to deny that permission. That's not the only problem; read the whole thing for the details, especially if you live in that state.

2014-07-10 14:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

And in other news, we finally found Saddam's WMD program

Insurgents in Iraq have seized nuclear materials used for scientific research at a university in the country's north, Iraq told the United Nations in a letter appealing for help to "stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad."

With some help from terrorists, who apparently had an easier time locating the material than our troops did. Chemical weapons, too.

In Israel, there's a different issue: Hamas terrorists are firing rockets at a nuclear reactor there.

I don't see how we can survive two more years of Obama without a major disaster.

2014-07-10 13:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Lerner: Congress has asked for emails... so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails.

Here's the full text of Lerner's email:

I had a question today about OCS. I was cautioning folks about email and how we have had several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails -- so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails. Someone asked if OCS conversations were also searchable -- I don't know, but told them I would get back to them. Do you know?

This was sent April 9th, 2013. There are two ways to read this; it could be a generalized warning not to write down stupid stuff like politically incorrect jokes or the like, because it would be recorded and might be embarrassing later. Or, it could be Lerner warning people to keep their discussions about IRS targeting out of email -- because she had already had her own experience with Congress inquiring into her activities and had to destroy her hard drive to avoid being caught breaking the law.

Frankly, I favor the second reading. It's too specific to Congress looking into her activities. It doesn't sound like a generalized warning. It sounds like someone who almost got caught, learned a lesson, and is passing that lesson on to her fellows.

It establishes what a lawyer would call mens rea: consciousness of guilt. Lerner appears to have understood that Congress would not approve of what her unit was doing if it was spelled out in discoverable emails, so she takes steps to insure it is kept out of those emails.

I'm going to add a second note. While instant messages are not always logged by the server, they are often logged by the individual computer, sometimes by default and sometimes requiring the user to select an option. How the IRS implementation behaves I do not know -- but everyone in Lerner's tax-exempt division from 2009 to today should have their computer seized immediately.

Someone may have turned their logging on.

You can read the whole thing, including the reply Lerner received to her question, below the fold.

(Read More...)

2014-07-10 12:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The IRS funding cut is just more kabuki theater

The spending bill would also prevent the IRS from spending any money to target groups based on their ideological beliefs, or for exercising their First Amendment rights. And, it would prevent spending on more Star Trek videos, and require detailed reporting on how the IRS spends its money. The bill would also prevent the IRS from any further implementation of Obamacare.

The Republicans have been pushing an effort to cut IRS funding as a penalty for targeting conservative groups, but evidence now reveals that the push behind the bill is fake. It was always iffy with regard to Senate passage, but the Senate and Obama will never agree to defund their signature legislative accomplishment. The Senate will strip the Obamacare provision out, and restore the IRS funding, and the result will be no cuts.

I hope I am wrong.

2014-07-10 11:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Who lost data, and what does it tell us?

The National Review has a list of who lost data and whether it was recovered. I'm going to apply some further analysis to those details, in addition to making the general comment that we have only the word of the IRS as to any of this -- ie, whether someone's emails are missing or not, what efforts were made to recover from a crash, whether those efforts recovered everything or if some things were missed or damaged, etc.

NameCauseData LostImportanceRecovered?
Lois LernerHard drive failure2 years of emailVery HighNo
Nikole FlaxWindows 7 upgradeCalendar entries, possibly emailVery HighNo
Michelle EldridgeHard drive replacedClaimed no data lossUnknownClaimed yes
KitchensHard drive failedClaimed no data lossUnknownClaimed yes
Chumney'sPC ReplacedClaimed no data lossUnknownClaimed yes
SteeleLaptop display failedClaimed no data lossUnknownClaimed yes
LoweLaptop replacedClaimed no data lossUnknownRetrieved by technician
FishLaptop replacedClaimed no data lossUnknownData transferred

So what patterns do we see here?

(Read More...)

2014-07-10 10:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Just how involved was the FBI in persecuting conservatives?

Oversight GOP has also hit Lerner for giving 1.1 million pages of tax return data about 501(c)(4) organizations to the FBI just before the 2010 midterms — 33 tax returns that included unlawfully disclosed private taxpayer information.

Taylor said Lerner didn’t know and sent them because Justice requested the documents: “She [understood] the donor information on Schedule B had been removed. In some cases, we later learned, it may not have been.”

The IRS has acknowledged that the 33 returns were not scrubbed of taxpayer information as required by law.

From a recent Politico interview with Lerner's lawyer.

Note that we're not talking about something Lerner admits to initiating here; she says the FBI requested the documents she sent (and, by sending, apparently violated the law regarding confidentiality of taxpayer information). We know Lerner was a busy bee at the IRS looking for ways to "fix the problem" of free speech created by the Citizens' United decision. But was there a parallel effort going on at the Department of Justice and other agencies? It seems likely.

Her attorney initially claimed she was not printing or archiving emails, but has since walked that statement back. Who has custody of the printed Lerner emails?

It reinforces an important point I addressed earlier. Why aren't we seeking testimony from Lerner's personal assistants and other staff about what she was up to? At least her personal assistant had access to her emails, too. They are unlikely to have a physical or electronic copy, but they could testify to what they remember. Human memories may be unreliable, but they are better than nothing.

(Read More...)

2014-07-10 09:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

TrackingPoint a smart gun that disables itself near schools and government buildings?

I was actually pretty interested in this particular concept, until I found out about this patent that claims the capability to disable a firearm based on the physical location of the firearm.

2014-07-09 16:35:27.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Missouri ballot to have expanded right to arms amendment

The proposed text of the amendment comes from the Missouri legislature and will explicitly protect arms, ammunition, and accessories; require strict scrutiny for any restrictions; requires the state government to defend against infringements; and explicitly calls out the allowable restrictions upon convicted violent felons and those adjudicated by a court to be a danger to themselves or others.

It looks good to me, but there are some legal complications with the ballot summary.

2014-07-09 15:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

They are no more neutral than a poison?

Joe's Quote of the Day:

There is no such thing as a neutral position on guns, because there is no such thing as a neutral gun. Guns have one purpose: to kill things. They are no more neutral than a poison. They can be used for good or ill, but the reason they exist is to hurt someone. In the “bad guy with a gun” versus a “good guy with a gun” scenario, the problem isn’t who’s bad and who’s good, it’s that there is a gun involved, period.

Chemotherapy is poison. Properly applied, you hope it kills the cancer faster than it kills the rest of the human.

Guns are similar. They are tools. They can be used for good or ill. Properly used, they can kill an attacker before he kills you, without killing anyone else.

Whenever I see a woman making these arguments, I know that she is reacting purely from irrational emotion. Why? Because the consequences of a world without firearms, for women specifically, are subjugation to the largest and strongest and most aggressive men around. The sort of world -- a world without firearms, where size and strength mattered far more than they do today -- is a world where the vast majority of men can overpower the vast majority of women pretty much at will.

Firearms put women on a much more equal footing when violence is on the table. Women should be celebrating that. Instead, many of them react just like Ana.

2014-07-09 14:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Nikole Flax was involved in managing IRS response to Congressional investigation

She is also one of the 7 IRS employees who lost data due to various computer problems when those investigations began. It seems that she was demanding personal approval of all IRS responses to Congress concerning the "c4 stuff".

2014-07-09 13:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

EPA wants the authority to garnish wages without a court order

This is repulsive to a free society. Due process of law is a fundamental freedom and protection for Americans, and the checks and balances inherent in separating the executive and judicial branches are a key part of that.

2014-07-09 12:35:27.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

I fear this is wishful thinking

“It may well prove to be the case that a computer forensics expert could recover evidence that the IRS has been unable to retrieve. At the very least, such an expert could preserve whatever evidence has not already been wiped clean from the IRS’s computers along with whatever is stored on the Individual Defendants’ home computers, cell phones, and other PDAs.”

The IRS, through Koskinen, claimed that the hard drive had been "recycled". True the Vote is asking for access to the physical drive to attempt to recover data from it. If the hard drive can be found, likely data recovery is possible. But I wouldn't expect the IRS to produce any physical storage media anytime soon.

Even if they are telling the truth, the physical media has likely been destroyed by now. That much is part of standard IT practice for retiring devices with sensitive information before discarding them. And "discarding" may well mean an anonymous physical destruction, without even noting the drive's serial numbers -- because who cares which non-functional drive used to be Lerner's, at least up until a court comes asking?

The questions necessary to determine whether Lerner's physical hard drive is still available should be asked, of course, and the hard drive retrieved if possible. But even an honest IRS cannot do the impossible, and a dishonest IRS has no motivation to try.

2014-07-09 11:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

A semiautomatic version of a 3d-printed gun

Reason has a brief article and a link to the video, plus the snappy headline "If you take my gun, I will simply print another one." As witticisms go, it has the benefits of a good rhyme and metered time, but if the state arrests you for having a printed guns, they aren't likely to let you go home again to print more.

This approach to 3d-printed guns is easy and convenient when firearms parts are available without state permission, but in a full-on gun confiscation effort that won't last.

2014-07-09 10:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Something to remember about the IRS scandal

Assuming what the IRS has told us about their internal email management practices is true, even what we successfully recover from the mailboxes of other IRS employees is going to be subject to a certain degree of internal filtering.

By that I mean, nothing appears to prevent an individual IRS employee from personally deleting any email they choose from the email server or from local storage on their hard drive. If the employee does so, the email might be recoverable from backup within 6 months. But it might not be, if it was sent and deleted between two backup runs. Roughly the same mechanics apply to an email stored on the local hard drive: if the user deletes the email, it will be recoverable for a period of time given access to the physical hard drive, and then eventually degrade.

An IRS employee determined to keep something secret from pesky Congressional investigations can simply delete any emails they have that are incriminating, wait 6 months for them to expire from the backup tapes, and (if any were already stored locally) destroy their hard drive. As 7 of them may in fact have done.

But destroying the hard drive produces undesired attention and is not strictly necessary. Deleting emails by hand from the server and from local storage is sufficient to frustrate anything less than heroic efforts to recover the missing emails, efforts which are unlikely to be applied to individuals who did not suffer suspicious equipment failures.

The bottom line is, we cannot assume that we are getting everything even from those individuals who appear to be cooperating.

Those with direct access to the emails and sufficient investigative resources should consider asking their investigators to pair up emails sent and received from different individuals -- trying to match up each sent email with the received copy. Discrepancies between emails sent and received may indicate that a particular individual was deleting emails.

2014-07-09 09:35:27.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

VA workers switched to processing Obamacare applications?!

A Veterans Affairs whistleblower from Atlanta will testify before Congress next Tuesday about widespread destruction of applications, retaliation against whistleblowers, and people being shifted from processing VA applications last summer to working on Obamacare enrollment.

Why are people at the VA working on Obamacare enrollment?

This doesn't surprise me -- it's the government shuffling resources from disfavored projects to favored projects. Business as usual, in other words, especially since Obamacare was at the same time politically vital and a complete disaster when implemented.

Remember, people are dying on VA waitlists. Business as usual in the government health care system is killing people.

2014-07-08 13:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Words of wisdom, apropos of nothing

In any society, there are some people who have too much free time and enjoy using it to tell other people what to do. In a democracy, these people become politicians, and their commands are enforced by armed police. The proper role and function of a Constitution is to limit the power of these men, their irrational urges, and their armed supporters to those areas where they can do the least harm, yet still be kept sufficiently busy harassing the dishonest as to waste as little time as possible pestering honest men.

2014-07-08 12:35:27.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Costco pulls book critical of Obama from shelves

It's one thing not to stock a book you disagree with for some reason. That's something that could be framed as a simple business decision, even if a stupid one (why NOT sell to both sides?). But pulling the book from shelves after buying it and stocking it? That screams of pressure coming from somewhere. Maybe from customers, and maybe from the Administration.

2014-07-08 09:35:27.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Confiscation without Representation

Our forefathers fought a revolution over being told to pay taxes without the right of representation in the government that levied those taxes. In the country they founded specifically to prevent that from happening again, 200 years and change later on, we are facing similar problems. They still tax us; technically, we still have representation. But occasionally, if you happen to be traveling by commercial airplane or public road, they stop you and confiscate your stuff. When this happens, you are not given any due process, because you are not being charged -- that's a separate matter, they say. If they charged you with a crime, you would get a day in court with a lawyer on your side.

Instead, they just take your stuff with no legal process at all if they think it looks illegal. If they don't take it, they take it out, play with it, and put it back in wrong.

Friends have had stuff disappear into the hands of the TSA before. It is petty, malicious bullshit at best, and outright theft at worst. And it happens all the time.

2014-07-07 18:35:27.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Losing the Mandate of Heaven

I believe it is Chinese culture that tells us that a government has a mandate from heaven legitimizing its rule. While that mandate is in place, according to the general perception of the people, they will obey the laws and commands of the government. Should that mandate be lost, obedience ceases: people protest, cheat, even engage in armed rebellion. Resistance to a regime that has lost the mandate of heaven is correct behavior; even rebellion is acceptable as it may replace the illegitimate government with a new government that does have the mandate of heaven. It is the difference between disagreeing with the law but remaining within its boundaries, and violating it outright. It happens not on an individual basis -- that is merely crime -- but on a society-wide basis. A sort of tipping point between a legitimate government and an illegitimate one.

It is often marked by the need for a government to compel obedience with armed force rather than its citizens obeying laws they oppose out of respect for the rule of law.

I think we are starting to see that now:

Oliver said, “The feds are pissed that they haven’t been able to use this facility. Officers out there warned people that federal agents will be in Murrieta on Monday–they are going to get the next bus through no matter what. Riot gear and shields will be used to push the crowd back.”

Even if Republicans take the Senate, we're likely looking at 2 more years of this before we have even a hope of restoring a legitimate government.

(Read More...)

2014-07-07 17:35:27.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Senator Dan Coats calls for special prosecutor in IRS scandal

Every little bit helps.

2014-07-07 16:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Far more Americans in NSA data than foreign targets

90% of the accounts in a particular cache of data provided to the Washington Post were not targets, and many of them -- nearly half -- were Americans. And the data was not only captured, but retained for an extended period of time.

2014-07-07 15:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

It keeps getting worse

Remember the flash-bang grenade that nearly killed a toddler when police officers on a raid tossed the grenade into the child's crib?

Yeah, there's a long history of incompetence and error about that situation.

Seriously, read the whole thing. It's a comedy of errors, except none of it is funny.

2014-07-07 14:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

No wonder the newspapers are losing money

He has unprecedented freedom and job security. Times columnists, Brooks said, are treated like “hothouse flowers.” “I’ve never attended a meeting at the Times,” he said. “We can write about anything. I’ve been at the Times for over a decade, I’ve never had a performance review. We can go anywhere we want. And we are just left alone.”

I work a day job and write columns (well, blog posts) for free on my own time. And the New York Times gives this guy a column, a salary, and a travel budget?

The truth is, the market is still sorting out exactly how much an opinion column is worth. The answer is: pretty much nothing, since everyone has an opinion... unless you have an audience. Columnists writing for existing news organizations get their audience from the organization, not their writing.

2014-07-07 13:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]


Flax made 31 visits to the White House between July 12, 2010 and May 8, 2013, according to White House visitor logs. Flax’s visits started in the early days of the IRS targeting program and ended just two days before the IRS scandal broke on May 10, 2013. Flax met twice in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with Jeanne Lambrew, a top adviser to President Obama who exchanged confidential information on conservative groups with Lerner.

So, almost exactly a month after Lerner may have been spooked by Camp's investigation into destroying her hard drive and emails, Flax starts visiting the White House. Her visits continue until the IRS scandal goes fully public with Lerner's planted question. The timeline matches up exactly to a sudden need for untraceable off-the-record coordination between Lerner's IRS targeting group and the White House.

Who else was at those meetings? Representatives of the Department of Justice, perhaps?

Maybe I should check the visitor logs and see if I can match up some times, dates, and names.

2014-07-07 12:35:27.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

When your defenders are calling you incompetent...

... in an effort to distract their audience from your criminal cover up...

Why, for instance, was it ever regarded as acceptable that such a critical federal agency could have such a woeful computer system with such a modest email capability?

Forget potential cover-ups — there’s been no evidence of any broad conspiracy — the committee ought to be focused on how the IRS could be allowed to maintain such low standards for technology and was never held accountable. Personal email was never regarded as an official record for anyone employed by the agency, let alone Ms. Lerner. And IRS officials were slow to notify Congress that Ms. Lerner’s emails were irretrievable.

On the other hand, why give the IRS a bigger budget when it is refusing to respond to Congressional oversight and behaving with startling arrogance in an apparent belief that it is completely unaccountable? It's certainly not appropriate to reward such behavior, especially when the agency has a $4.4 billion IT budget over the relevant period that it could have spent storing emails.

2014-07-07 11:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

SHOCKING: Obama's handpicked privacy board whitewashes surveillance

You can read the report yourself, if you like, but there's not much point. Ars Technica summarizes it.

I will address a couple of points:
Further, Americans' communications are often scooped up in the process, and the authorities sometimes perform so-called "backdoor" searches into that data as well with search terms like a US phone number or e-mail addresses of known Americans. The board said the US could continue to spy on Americans without individual warrants if the authorities believe the results would "likely" produce foreign intelligence. If it does not, the data should be deleted, the board recommended.

1) "Acquire and delete later" is not an acceptable mechanism. The 4th Amendment violation takes place when the data is acquired, not when a human examines it.

2) The 4th Amendment was developed specifically to protect against "General Warrants" which authorized an agent of the British King to search anyone and anything he wanted at any time or place without evidence of a specific crime. If you don't have a specific thing you are searching for, which is allegedly evidence relating to a specific crime, you have a general warrant, and those are prohibited.

The only way out of this is massive, widespread encryption and improved default security.

2014-07-07 10:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

No one remembers anything

She worked for the IRS for 6 months, handling their response to the Congressional investigation. Now she works for the White House, and she can't name a single person she interacted with at the IRS. Not one. It's not even a hard question, just name a few names. Who helped her collect information?

No one, apparently.

Either she sat in an office on the government payroll for 6 months watching porn on her laptop, or she's covering up... pretty much everything she did.

What does this tell us? Well, aside from the fact that this woman is not in the least afraid of Congress, it tells me that the coverup is complete. Every single physical or electronic record that the White House, the IRS, and the DoJ could find has been destroyed. No one is afraid of records coming out and making them into liars, and every top official involved has been in some manner silenced. Bribery, a nice retirement package, a promise of a good job, blackmail, perhaps even a threat -- whatever the means, promises of silence have been obtained, and the rest is all shaping the narrative for Congress and the media.


There are still people who helped out. Little people. People who participated, who looked into things, who ran errands. Who asked questions on behalf of and got answers to them.

There are still a few of those running around loose and uncompromised.

And the White House needs a little more time to find them all and shut them up.

We should not give them that time.

2014-07-07 09:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Facebook conducted research on election day voting buttons

I need to stop speculating about political worst-case scenarios, because they keep coming true. It seems that one of Facebook's undisclosed experiments on its users involved an "I'm voting" button that influenced voter turnout:

That day, all we were able to find out from a reliable source inside Facebook was that these discrepancies were supposedly the result of ongoing research by the company's data science team. As Stirland reported for us at techPresident then, "some users will see different buttons, and others might not see the message at all, and that people have been randomly selected and placed in control groups as part of ongoing research by Facebook's data team."

It's one thing to conduct unethical research on your user base to see if you can artificially change their mood by showing them positive or negative news items. It's quite another to conduct "research" on your election tools on election day itself.

I have no objection to a site like Facebook providing users with a way to share the fact that they have voted, or are about to vote, with their friends. But it seems obvious that groups of people with such a tool are more likely to vote than those who don't have such a tool. And therein lies the problem: if you can give your turnout-boosting tools to one side of a political fight and not the other, you can influence who turns out to vote and who does not. And when your user base consists of 161 million people, you can easily swing elections.

We know that Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is politically active. How hard would it be to tell his "researchers" to conduct "research" by enhancing the turnout of left-leaning voters, by giving them the "I'm voting" buttons and a convenient "Find My Polling Place" option and positive news stories on their feeds, while giving hte right-leaning voters no buttons, no help, and depressing news stories?

It's not illegal for a corporation to pick sides in an election fight, but for many of Facebook's users, it's likely to be a betrayal of trust. Calling it "research", though, makes it unethical. Facebook may come to regret that.

2014-07-05 14:35:27.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Salad is murder!

Or something like that. It seems plants can react to caterpillars eating them. Assuming it's not more fake science, anyway. But frankly, I don't care: I'm going to send this link to the next person who tells me eating meat is murder.

2014-07-05 09:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Obama Admin needs a new racial group

It seems the black and hispanic voting blocks won't be enough for this election cycle, so they are desperately seeking to energize the Native American block.

“An offensive word that many people hate and think should be banned. Others say not so fast, there’s nothing wrong with using the word, especially when we’re talking about a group of people we hold dear, like, even love,” Lemon said Thursday. “Sounds like I’m talking about the ‘n-word,’ which has been debated, discussed and reported countless times, but I’m not. This time it’s the dreaded ‘r-word,’ Redskins, as in the Washington football team.”

That's all I have to say about this particular squirrel.

2014-07-04 16:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

$3800 fee to sell guns in Chicago

Economic oppression that seeks to deny guns to poor people.

The 30-page proposal would require bi-yearly fees ranging from $1,100 for a “weapons dealer” who would be cleared to sell stun guns, to $3,800 for firearms dealers. In addition to this, the language of the ordinance would forbid issuing licenses to anyone working from a home, or within 500 feet of a park, school, church, or any building leased to or owned by the city, state, or federal government. It is believed that this would put some 99.5 percent of the city off-limits to potential gun stores.

If they can't stop you from buying a gun, they will do their best to make sure you have to leave the city to do it -- and that you can't afford anything the store is allowed to sell.

There's also a mandatory waiting period (1 day for rifles, 3 days for handguns).

2014-07-04 15:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

White House says it doesn't have any Lerner emails

Well, OK, they admit to three. Two are taxpayer assistance requests and one is spam.

Followup questions:
1) Did you search for emails from Lerner's home address?
2) Did you search for emails and calendar entries from Nikole Flax?
3) Did you search for emails from the rest of Lerner's 6 computer-crash-prone colleagues?
4) And their home email addresses?
5) And their email addresses named after a family pet?
6) How long is your data retention policy?
7) Why is it that short and how long has it been that short?
8) May we have the physical hard drives on which those emails would have been stored, if in fact they did exist at one time?

2014-07-04 14:35:27.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Identifying the donors

The obvious inference is that the IRS didn’t just send the FBI a bunch of publicly available Form 990s filed by non-profits. Rather, the IRS included Schedule B to those forms–the documents that name the organization’s donors, and provide their addresses and the amounts they contributed. Donor information contained in Schedule B is confidential. Illegally communicated, it would give the FBI a checklist of individuals who could be investigated and potentially criminally prosecuted, much as Dinesh D’Souza was prosecuted for a chickenfeed election offense a few years later.

Obama has been on a public crusade against anonymous donations to political causes since the Citizens' United decision. His administration has been on a similar private crusade to illegally identify and prosecute those donors.

Now we know the IRS -- Lerner specifically -- provided the FBI with millions of taxpayer records identifying conservative donors. The FBI says those records sat in a cabinet without being examined, beyond checking the table of contents, because the FBI agent who had them was waiting for instructions and never got them.

If you believe that one, I've got another bridge to sell you.

2014-07-04 13:35:27.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Happy Independence Day

For a variety of reasons I can't really work up much enthusiasm for the holiday this year. Phil at Random Nuclear Strikes sums up my mood well.

Maybe in 3 years we can celebrate a true independence day again.

2014-07-04 12:54:11.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Lerner's personal email address

We learned in 2013 that she has one and occasionally sent official records to that email address:

"Through the course of the investigation, we have learned that you sent documents related to your official dendrites from your official IRS e-mail account to an e-mail account labeled 'Lois Home.' This raises some serious questions concerning your use of a non-official e-mail account to conduct official business. Accordingly, we write to request documents related to your official duties that are housed in non-official e-mail accounts," the letter states. "The use of non-official e-mail accounts to conduct official business implicates federal records requirements. Use of a non-official e-mail account to conduct government business raises the prospect that records -- as defined by the Federal Records Act -- are not captured by official government e-mail archiving systems. It also creates difficulties in fulfilling the IRS' obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and other litigation requests. You use of non-official e-mail account also frustrates congressional oversight obligations."

Congress has subpoena'd Lerner for those emails. She pled the 5th. Did Congress think to subpoena MSN? Or her Blackberry? How about Lerner's executive assistant, who (according to Lerner's email about her hard drive crash) gets to Lerner's email before Lerner herself does?

There are other sources. Lerner's assistant may not have access to Lerner's email archives now, but she may remember what took place and who Lerner was communicating with -- which would be enough to issue targeted requests to other government agencies.

Better hurry. You never know when they are going to reuse their backup tapes.

2014-07-04 12:35:27.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

IRS also lost calendar information for some employees

IRS Letter to congress, page 6 and 7, footnote:

"In addition, you will note that for some of these individuals, there is little information prior to 2012. We have been informed that in a broad migration of computer systems from Windows Xp to Windows 7, Outlook calendar information from before 2012 was lost."

Thanks to ZDNet for noticing it.

The footnote doesn't specify who exactly "lost" data this way, but the leading speculation points to Nicole Flax, who was involved in the targeting to some degree (CC'd on other related emails) and is recorded on the White House visitor logs rather a lot.

I haven't seen a quote so intensely focused on the passive voice since the last time I read an officer's account of how his gun "just went off" and killed someone.

And remember, when you are evaluating the plausibility of these excuses, that Lerner's hard drive crash happened within 10 days of a Congressional letter of inquiry into the Tea Party targeting.

There are drones in the comments on the ZDNet article arguing that the IRS has horrible IT because they don't have funding. Bullshit. They claim to have spent $10 million on the effort to retrieve these emails. For that amount, they could buy a proper email retention system every year. It takes great big brass ones to use this scandal to call for a larger IRS budget.

But does the IRS really need more money? Let's take for example the issue of the missing emails. The IRS's IT budget is $1.8 billion. In other words, the IRS spends $20,000 on IT per employee. Are we to believe that that all these missing emails are the result of a lack of funds? They couldn't afford to keep email on central servers like the rest of the civilized world?

I still say set the budget to $0 until everyone involved testifies and all relevant documents are produced. And if they can't produce them, well, another agency can handle our tax system.

2014-07-04 11:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Speaking of government funding...

... the Russians have been funding anti-fracking environmental groups in Europe. No wonder they think climate skeptics are funded by Big Ooil; it's projection.

2014-07-04 10:35:26.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]
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