Late Night Open Thread: On the Lighter Side…

Some people just make a farewell phone call to their loved ones, but…


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And a reminder (via Josh Marshall) from one of this blog’s forgotten chew toys, someone so lightweight I suspect she needs to be securely tethered on windy days…


To save you reading her self-defence: As a devout Randroid, she still doesn’t understand the concept of consent. Best I can tell, McArgleBargle figures that all sexual contact is a matter of “self-interested exchange”… insert your own “free hand of the market” snark below…



Bitcoin: Beanie Babies for Techno-Libertarians?

I’ve got nothing against collectibles, and I have the Franklin Mint plates to prove it. But most of the little I know about economics I got from reading J.K. Galbraith, so whenever people start talking about Free money — guaranteed to appreciate!, the alarm bells go off. From the Washington Post:

Bitcoin soared past the $17,000 mark on Thursday, a dizzying run for a digital currency that was worth less than $1,000 at the start of the year and was once largely the preoccupation of technologists or those looking to avoid scrutiny to launder money or buy drugs and weapons online.

The fast rise — it has gone up more than 40 percent this week alone — is creating a buying frenzy among eager speculators around the world and helping push bitcoin into the mainstream. And it is also forcing U.S. regulators to grapple with whether to legitimize a product that operates outside the control of any government or financial institution.

The run-up in price comes as bitcoin enthusiasts prepare to reach a new landmark. On Sunday, a bitcoin product will trade for the first time on a U.S. financial market, making it almost as easy to bet on the virtual currency as oil, corn or the euro…

McClatchy:

Much of the computer power sustaining bitcoin occurs at massive complexes – or farms – in rural China running on electricity from coal-fired generating plants in Sichuan and Inner Mongolia. Reporters from Quartz and Bloomberg visited one of the massive farms in August, and said it had eight warehouses containing 25,000 processing machines, or about four percent of the global bitcoin network.
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Profits Uber Alles

There are so many reasons to not use Uber or Lyft, and here is another one:

Hackers stole the personal data of 57 million customers and drivers from Uber Technologies Inc., a massive breach that the company concealed for more than a year. This week, the ride-hailing company ousted Joe Sullivan, chief security officer, and one of his deputies for their roles in keeping the hack under wraps.

Compromised data from the October 2016 attack included names, email addresses and phone numbers of 50 million Uber riders around the world, the company told Bloomberg on Tuesday. The personal information of about 7 million drivers were accessed as well, including some 600,000 U.S. driver’s license numbers. No Social Security numbers, credit card details, trip location info or other data were taken, Uber said.

At the time of the incident, Uber was negotiating with U.S. regulators investigating separate claims of privacy violations. Uber now says it had a legal obligation to report the hack to regulators and to drivers whose license numbers were taken. Instead, the company paid hackers $100,000 to delete the data and keep the breach quiet. Uber said it believes the information was never used but declined to disclose the identities of the attackers.

Why are companies not legally required to disclose data breaches?

Also, fuck all these glibertarian techbro companies, and you all need to stop with this uber/lyft, airbnb bullshit.



Late Night Rude Speculation Open Thread: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, But Gated Communities Not So Much?

That was also my first reaction to the “brutal” attack on Rand Paul by his gated-community neighbor. Paul was in his yard, on his riding mower, wearing ‘ear protection’… that, to me, said: Entitled guy blowing his tree-garbage onto his neighbors’ property, at a high decibel level. If you don’t think such behavior is outside of possibility, you’ve never lived next to one of these jagoffs. Even letting his dog befoul your lawn is at least quiet.

Mr. Paul, 54, has long stood out in the well-to-do gated neighborhood south of Bowling Green, Ky., that he calls home. The senator grows pumpkins on his property, composts and has shown little interest for neighborhood regulations.

But the spectacle of the incident — one former doctor attacking another in broad daylight — was altogether different. Competing explanations of the origins of the drama cited stray yard clippings, newly planted saplings and unraked leaves…

Matthew J. Baker, a lawyer for Mr. Boucher, called the matter “a very regrettable dispute” between neighbors over a “trivial” matter.

The incident “has absolutely nothing to do with either’s politics or political agendas,” Mr. Baker said in a statement on Monday. “It was a very regrettable dispute between two neighbors over a matter that most people would regard as trivial.”…

“They just couldn’t get along. I think it had very little to do with Democrat or Republican politics,” said Jim Skaggs, who developed the gated community and who lives nearby. “I think it was a neighbor-to-neighbor thing. They just both had strong opinions, and a little different ones about what property rights mean.”

Asked about long-leveled allegations that Mr. Paul had disregarded neighborhood regulations, Mr. Skaggs, who is also a former leader of the county Republican Party, said that the senator “certainly believes in stronger property rights than exist in America.”…

Okay, maybe he was just mulching those leaves with his mower, so that the pieces would be smaller, easier for the wind to distribute and harder for his neighbors to rake up…

Mr. Paul is a libertarian, and a dick (but I repeat myself). My bet would be he righteously ignored the ‘neighborhood regulations’ one time too often, because His Home Is His Castle, and They Are Not the Boss of Me. Violence is never the best solution, but to quote Chris Rock, “I don’t approve… but I understand.”


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The politically interesting question: How long will his injuries keep Rand Paul away from the Senate? Not to underestimate the genuine suffering involved — broken ribs are the devil — but if *I* were a proudly independent sorta-Republican facing the goat rodeo that is the GOP tax bill in the making, I would not hesitate to seek any available excuse for staying away…



Things I Did Not Know: Mercer-nary Objectives?

We were all, understandably, agog yesterday over Robert Mercer’s sudden decision to step down from his hedge fund (and also cut Breitbart loose). But I was working my ADD-addled way through the tweetstreams late at night, and read for the first time about Mr. Mercer’s disagreements with the IRS:

Suddenly, the government’s seven-year pursuit of Renaissance Technologies LLC is blanketed in political intrigue, now that the hedge fund’s reclusive, anti-establishment co-chief executive, Robert Mercer, has morphed into a political force who might be owed a big presidential favor.

With Trump in the Oval Office, Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, who has become his public voice, seem armed with political firepower every which way you look – and that’s even though presidential adviser Stephen Bannon, their former senior executive and political strategist, appears to have recently lost influence.

Since the IRS found in 2010 that a complicated banking method used by Renaissance and about 10 other hedge funds was a tax-avoidance scheme, Mercer has gotten increasingly active in politics. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, he doled out more than $22 million to outside conservative groups seeking to influence last year’s elections, while advocating the abolition of the IRS and much of the federal government.

The Mercer Family Foundation, run by Rebekah Mercer, also has donated millions of dollars to conservative nonprofit groups that have called for the firing of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, an Obama administration holdover whose five-year term expires in November…

IRS leader Koskinen has said publicly that he intends to finish his term. On his watch, the agency hasn’t been cowed by the Mercers.

The IRS recently released a little-noticed advisory stating that its top targets in future business audits will include so-called “basket options,” the instruments that Renaissance and some other hedge funds have used to convert short-term capital gains to long-term profits that have lower tax rates…

More detail from an Oct. 27 Bloomberg article:

Members of the Internal Revenue Service’s Office of Appeals are scheduled to meet with lawyers for Renaissance in New York on Nov. 7, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The meeting kicks off a review by an independent branch of the tax agency and suggests a resolution may be years away.

Although the dollar amount at issue has never been made public, Senate investigators estimated that Renaissance employees may have pocketed about $6.8 billion through what a bipartisan panel in 2014 called an “abusive” tax shelter. Renaissance executives maintain the transactions at issue were within the law and weren’t driven by tax savings…

Trump named David Kautter to become acting IRS commissioner after the term of John Koskinen, an appointee of Barack Obama, expires Nov. 12. Kautter doesn’t require Senate confirmation. Rootstrikers, a group critical of the Trump administration, began a petition drive Friday opposing the Kautter appointment, calling it an “end run around the Senate” that “could lead to a massive payback for billionaire Trump donor Robert Mercer.”…
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