I’ve spent the last few years working in fintech startups in New York. In particular, startups which are part of the U.S. equities markets. For the uninitiated, this means our firms are able to be a member of (other) national stock exchanges, and it comes with a stack of laws and regulations that most companies—let alone most startups—never have to worry about.
A set of rules which are relevant to this post are SEC 17a-1, 17a-3, and 17a-4. Among other things, they say we have to record all our “electronic correspondence” (for example, e-mails and chat), and send a copy of all of it to a designated third party (D3P), who holds copies for years, and provide those records to the SEC “instantly,” when asked.
Unfortunately, this is for good reason. Evidence for the LIBOR rigging scandal, for example, rests in large part on archived chat room conversations. You might remember LIBOR from the fine print on your mortgage, car loan, insurance policy, and pretty much everything else on earth that includes an interest rate. This means a chat room’s worth of traders rigged the interest rates for $300,000,000,000,000 ($300t) worth of loans and derivatives products around the world.
Remember the drug-room girls from New Jack City, forced to work naked lest they steal anything not bolted down? That’s your electronic life in the financial industry, circa 2016, because you’re the one handling the money.
Whether the record retention regulations for the financial industry are overly broad is neither here nor there, they’re still the law. Congress is granted some authority by the U.S. Constitution (read: the commerce clause), and decides that some aspect of the economy needs closer attention from the government. Often, the issue is too detailed, technical, or politically sensitive for Congress to actually deal with it through individual legislation, so Congress delegates their authority to an agency in the executive branch to deal with it.
It’s simply impractical for Congress to appropriate funds for study and write a new laws for every new chemical compound invented by the chemical industry, so Congress delegates the authority to the EPA to do that. Congress can’t keep track of the wheeling and dealing of hedge funds, mutual funds, muni funds, 401ks, funds-of-funds, pension funds, exchange-traded funds, stock brokers, investment banks, stock exchanges, and where the line between fraud and salesmanship is, so they created the SEC and dumped the whole mess on them.
The upshot is, you don’t get to ignore what rules the FTC, EPA, OSHA, or SEC write, because they were granted the authority to do what they are doing by the Congress.
At any rate the regulations require we keep records of all our correspondence, so that’s what we do. For the federal government, however, it isn’t a regulatory body that requires the federal government keep records of what’s going on, it’s simply black-letter law.
Now, one of the recurring excuses offered for Clinton’s server is that the State Department’s e-mail system must be terrible, and she needed an alternate e-mail to communicate effectively. But this isn’t a choice you’re allowed to make in a regulated entity.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending shitty bureaucratic IT in the least. Regulatory compliance issues are just as often a means to justify inaction and grind political axes than ensure things are being done in a safe, legal way. But that doesn’t mean you get to bypass all your policies and not tell anyone you’re doing so.
To be sure, the unclassified e-mail system at the State Department has been compromised by hackers for nearly two years, but that’s reason not to send classified materials through an unclassified system, not create your own, barely-secured, never-audited, system.
And really. They hired a shadow IT guy, on the government payroll, to maintain an off-the-books e-mail server, and supposedly the rest of the IT staff was told not to ask what he was doing? Seriously, it’s no wonder Chelsea Manning was able to walk out the door with a CD containing a half-million secret documents.
The Boss’ Ask
Many years ago, in an interview at an HFT shop, one of the questions I was asked was what I would do if one of the partners asked me to grant them access to all the source code. The answer I gave was “inform the other partners immediately, and schedule a change during the next maintenance window.”
This gives the other partners a chance to get their legal shit together if the need to, because the partner in question is most likely trying to steal the code for his (yes, his) next gig. Yeah, being in the middle of a partner fight is a shit spot to be in, but that’s part of working in IT. At least it’s not nuking a developer friend’s account while he’s in the meeting with his boss and the COO, getting fired.
Similarly, being in a position to report the former First Lady and current Secretary of State is a pretty shit spot to be in, but it’s not like you put yourself in that situation. Hell, for all you know she is practicing shit opsec with her e-mail on purpose as a way to spy for a foreign power of some strain or other.
I don’t actually believe that Hillary is a foreign spy, but that’s why you have rules about information security and handling classified materials. You have them so you don’t have to believe, you can simply know. To be sure, there are other unanswered questions about “gaps” in the e-mail record, but we’ll never know what craziness was in those e-mails, because they’re gone now.
And no, I don’t care about what she said in the e-mails either. That is not indicative of her character, that is indicative of what she’s willing to put in writing.
Hillary Clinton broke the law, and the fact she’s a former First Lady, former Senator, and former Secretary of State is what’s kept her from suffering consequences, and I think that’s unjust.
Similarly, I think it’s unjust that George W. Bush got away with it when he was running his own quasi-personal e-mail server, gwb43.com, and deleted everything—22 million e-mails—when someone found out about it. Colin Powell and did the same with an aol.com address (albeit without deleting everything), and Condoleesa Rice had a yet-unnamed private e-mail as well. The upshot is no one connected to the last administration has any business commenting on this, though you can probably guess which narcissistic sociopath will be sauntering up to the bar if you can actually remember anything that happened nine years ago.
Plenty of other people have to follow the rules, and granting Clinton (or any other famous person) the ability to dodge the rules and have some hack at ThinkProgress ring for the whambulance about the e-mail server at the State Department not working right should offend your sense of justice. I’m not saying she should go to prison, because going to prison for deleting an e-mail is fucking insane, but I’m also not pleased with the no-action from the FBI, either.
By this point you’re probably wondering why the title of this post is “Voting for Hillary.” The point is that I am, in spite of the e-mail thing, going to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election. Yes, I just calmly explained this is still a democracy, and even important people need to be held to account for breaking the rules, even when those rules are about something as seemingly banal and boring as record retention (my understanding is that the only “classified” information in the e-mails she provided was deemed classified after the fact, so the mishandling charge is silly).
You knew I was going to get here eventually, so don’t act all surprised now. Why vote for someone you think is probably a criminal? Because Donald Trump is a danger to the very idea of western democracy, and that’s so much more serious than violating record retention laws, you should actually feel a little queasy at the thought of him in a position of political power.
It’s difficult to call anything Donald says a legitimate policy proposal, but his speeches are pure id and salesmanship, and his appeals are made directly to every person’s heart of darkness.
To be sure, Donald holds plenty of positions that are ridiculous on their face. There’s the Anti-Common Core hysteria. The lack of belief in climate change is also fun, particularly because that’s obviously how facts work: only true if you believe them.
As of this week, Donald was still opposed to legal abortions. No really! He totally swears he means it this time, and it’s not the most transparent, cynical, form of pandering you can imagine. Seriously, if you honestly believe that Donald is actually “pro-life,” I’d like to pitch you on my next startup idea to revolutionize croud-sourced fundraising. The way it works is, you type in your credit card number, and money goes from your credit account to my checking account. The best part about this business plan is that it’s so simple it can’t fail.
To be fair, he has said so many different things at so many different times, you can probably find some purported position of his that you agree with, assuming nobody asks him the same question a couple months later. One of the disadvantages of “winging it” on the campaign trail is that it’s pretty tough to keep all the bogus promises straight.
Bluntly, Donald’s proposed border wall the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard from a presidential candidate. Even dumber than thinking the fact you can see Russia from your state counts as foreign policy experience. From a logistical perspective, this particular, um, “proposal,” is a tremendous waste of money. As envisioned, the wall would cost at least $25bn to build, and even a simple steel fence would cost $750m a year to maintain.
Originally, the idea was this would be paid for out of America’s current account with Mexico. This is absolutely incoherent, because Donald has no clue in fuck what a “current account” is. Seriously, it’s not an actual account, like at a bank, it’s just a scorecard of all the stuff that says Made in Mexico vs the all the stuff that says Made in the USA.
Oh, now he’s changed his mind. We’re going to extort money from the Mexican government, and if they don’t capitulate, we’ll block remittances. Because Donald has the authority to block wire transfers. Does this only work to Mexico? Because if that’s the case, I’d like to pitch you on my latest startup: it’s a Panamanian money-transfer website…
Oh, sorry, that’s changed again, now we’re going to overcharge Mexican CEOs for travel visas. Pro-tip: the guys who are wealthy enough to contribute significantly to a $25bn construction project are also wealthy enough to demand we get visas and go see them.
Meanwhile, at 2,000 miles long, the wall would be twenty times larger than the Berlin Wall.
But don’t kid yourself: 2,000 miles worth of wall will require 2,000 miles of security cameras, motion sensors, power, infrastructure, drones, helicopters, planes, and guys with badges and guns to watch over all that, and respond to people who take a $10 rope with a hook on the end, and throw it over your $25bn wall.
The Berlin Wall had 10,000 guards to provide round-the-clock surveillance, and five percent of the people who tried to cross into West Germany still made it. But forget about that, let’s pretend that everything will work the way the man on TV promises, and somehow technology will magic away all our problems, and you don’t actually need twenty times as many guards.
Let’s pretend you can cover a wall 20 times bigger, with only 5 times as many guards. So that’s adding 50,000 people to the border patrol, which increases its head-count by 3.5 times. If you assume each guard (with insurance, health care, pension, etc.) only costs the federal government $50,000, then we’re talking about $2.5bn a year worth of man-hours to guard the wall. And, of course, these guys are federal law enforcement in cartel country, which means $50k is probably less than half of what it will really cost the government to employ them.
So tens of billions of dollars to build it, billions of dollars more to man it every year, a huge increase in the authority of the President, no matter what scheme he thinks will fund this thing, a huge increase in the number of federal cops, and what’s the end result? Well, experts believe this will simply force people into the arms of organized crime, who will forge documents and send them through the border checkpoints.
Meaning you don’t actually accomplish any reduction in undocumented immigration unless you also spend even more money, on even more federal police, in major urban areas, rather than remote outposts.
War Crimes as Policy
Seven months ago, Donald suggested that we are should try to murder the family members of ISIS members. He claimed that the U.S. government is not targeting civilians because we are fighting a “very politically-correct war.”
Firstly, the U.S. government has killed a lot of civilians in the last 15 years. The White House itself estimates that we’ve killed 116 civilians during, specifically,
- Drone strikes
- Outside of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria
- Between 2009 and 2015
Independent estimates, averaged by a blogger at the Council on Foreign Relations, point to four times that many innocent dead.
Again, that’s just that one, very narrow type of mission. It won’t include the 42 people that were killed when a C-130 gunship accidentally attacked a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan. Wrong place, wrong kind of plane to show up in the report.
I say accidentally because I don’t believe the U.S. government actually goes around targeting civilians as a matter of policy, even in the early days after 9/11, even under Cheney, Bush, and Rumsfeld. This doesn’t mean particular units don’t go off and murder civilians all on their own. It also doesn’t mean the Bush or Obama administrations worked hard enough to prevent civilian casualties in the various military adventures of the last sixteen years, but ordering the military to kill civilians, on purpose, doesn’t just sound bad, it’s actually a war crime.
Seriously, Donald wants to order the military to find and murder non-combatant women and children. It’s evil.
11 Million Interned
Another of Donald’s “policy proposals” is to arrest and deport every undocumented/illegal immigrant in two years. The only time I’m aware of a modern state attempting a mass relocation at that scale is Germany under the Nazis.
Yes, I’m going with the Nazis, because the police action Donald is proposing is something that only the Nazis actually did. Stalin killed millions of Ukrainians through intentional starvation and genocide, Mao’s mismanagement and “permanent revolution” was responsible for millions more, and the Khmer Rouge, which did forcibly relocate people from the cities to the countryside, did not do so for expulsion.
But among the great villains of history, only the Nazis interned their victims with the public intent to exile them from the country, even as the size of the country expanded.
I could talk about the practical difficulties of constructing a police machine capable of arresting, transporting, processing, and removing 15,000 people from society a day, every day, for years on end. I could talk about the hundreds of billions of dollars to spend on tripling the size of our prison population. I could talk about the hundreds of thousands of human tragedies that are an inevitable consequence of this. I could talk about how this will undoubtedly lead to a wave of domestic terrorism against law enforcement, and the construction of a new underground railroad to Canada.
But I’m not going to talk about any concerns, or brook a discussion, because the policy is pure evil on it’s face. I don’t have to pretend like this is a candidate for reasoned debate, because it’s wrong. It’s recreating the type of horror that absent from western history for 80 years, and that’s reason enough to overlook pretty much any crime Hillary Clinton may ever have committed.
That’s why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. Not because she’s so great or so wonderful, but because her only serious competitor promises he will commit crimes against humanity if he’s elected.
The third-party rule is obviously a reaction to a case where a firm that was being investigated claimed there were faulty backups, and the SEC wanted to avoid “the dog ate my backup tapes” being the reason to no-action investigations in the future.
To be fair, it’s going to to get tough to get too worked up about LIBOR. The traders who rigged LIBOR did so in favor of low interest rates, which means pretty much everyone was under-charged on their loans, possibly by a trillion dollars. Now, you might be thinking “that’s great, fuck the banks,” but it’s important to remember the important lesson from the financial crisis of 2008: banks aren’t actually the one getting paid back by your loans.
By politically sensitive, I’m thinking specifically here of currency policy being delegated to the Federal Reserve—by delegating the authority, Congress is immune to populist pressures for monetary policies that would promote full employment. In a similar vein, I’d actually be in favor of Congress voting to “automate” debt ceiling increases rather than allowing the Nihilist Wing of the Republican Party to periodically threaten the global financial system with ruin.
It’s a waste of Congress’ time to write individual laws for how much sleep a pilot needs to have to be safe, or a trucker hauling nuclear waste, or figure out what kind of encryption the government should be using for what types of data, or how beauty products should be tested. They don’t want to keep track of every new psychoactive drug, or call an emergency session every time some dollar-store trinket poses a choking hazard for children under 5 years old.
Regardless of how inefficient a technocratic bureaucracy (private or public) may be, it’s still a step forward from the alternative: dragging 435 politicians into the light on every technical issue they run into. Hell, you can’t even depend on them to believe in obvious shit like evolution and climate change.
Do 432 in your head. First, you break it down into component parts that you do know how to do: 40 * 40 can be broken down into 4 * 4 = 16, and 10 * 10 = 100, which get multiplied back together as 16 * 100 = 1600, so 432 is bigger than 1600. Then you add the threes multiplied out, starting with 3 * 40 = 120, so it’s at least than 1720. Add another 3 * 40 for the other three, and you get 1840. Add in 3 * 3 and you get 1849, which is the same answer the calculator gave you. Except you didn’t have to pull out your phone, unlock it, open the calculator app, type in the numbers, and find the exponent operator hidden under the thing. You didn’t have to because using your brain the “common core” way was actually faster than punching it up on your phone.
Seriously, that’s what Common Core math is teaching, and it’s dramatically superior to the shit they taught you in school because the exact same path you take with 9+6 will also let you solve 432. So by the time you get to algebra, multiplicative properties, and exponents, you’ve been working out problems with the same techniques for years, so you can actually understand what you’re doing.
If you really want to understand computers, you also need to deal with octal, hexadecimal, and binary number systems as well, because those are the number systems the computer deals with. A base-centered approach to teaching children means they will also have an easier learning curve into computers, the same techniques will work in systems where the digits roll over after 1, or 7, or 15, instead of just 9. The same techniques that work for 9 + 6 in decimal will also work with octal, where the numbers count from zero to 7 (09 + 06 = 017), or base-16/hexadecimal, where they go from 0-F (0-9, A=10, B=11, C, D, E, F=15), where 0xC + 0xF = 0x1B.
And all that is without even indulging in paranoia over the fact that the most publicly visible complaints about Common Core have tended to come from either wolf-shirts, or right-wing, pro-charter, pro-voucher, and ultimately pro-privatization, think tanks.
Jesus fuck, you see what this has reduced me to? Drawing allusions to Ronald Bloody Reagan? Yikes.
That includes the screwball conspiracy theory crimes she’s accused of too. She could have personally shot Vince Foster in the face from a black helicopter, as part of a cocaine-for-secrets deal with the KGB, brokered by the Reptilian U.N., and she’d still make a better president than Donald Fucking Trump.