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President Trump’s Anti-Regulation Policies Might Actually be Good for Tech Startups

trump-digital-czarz

‘I know, I know. But I’m begging you to read this till the end, and not take me out of context.’

Ashu Garg is a general partner at Foundation Capital, where he invests in B2B software across the stack. He currently serves on the boards of TubeMogul, Localytics, Conviva, ZeroStack and Yozio, among others. Reach him @ashugarg.

Ashu Garg writes: Well, it happened. I thought it was a joke when he started campaigning, and I was aghast when he was elected, but that’s all history at this point: Donald Trump is president. Rather than spend time on sour grapes, I think it’s more productive to make a clear-eyed appraisal of what his administration might mean for my industry. I know that what I say next risks being taken out of context, but from my vantage as a longtime tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist, I believe that there’s a real chance Trump will be — I’m begging you to read till the end and not take me out of context — good for startups.

trump-conf

“The most significant reason Trump might be good for early-stage companies is that he is very anti-regulation.”

First off, change in general is good for entrepreneurs, because it creates new circumstances for them to exploit or gaps for them to fill. Regulatory change, more specifically, is ripe with opportunity. Moreover, Trump has historically made a lot of pro-small-business noises, and has signaled that he will shake up the Small Business Administration.

[Read the full story here, at Recode]

Professional-wrestling magnate Linda McMahon is potentially taking over, and may be receptive to the type of changes that would allow emerging enterprises — in tech and outside it — to grow, including making it easier for first-time entrepreneurs to access startup grant funding.

DigitalDC

“Trump has promised to make huge investments in infrastructure, largely to be funded by debt — for entrepreneurs, this will create enormous possibility.”

The most significant reason Trump might be good for early-stage companies is that he is very anti-regulation. The White House has already issued a freeze on new or pending regulations to all executive departments and agencies, for example. One can argue whether less regulation is good or bad for society. But it’s only good news for startups, which are always in a hurry to ship their ideas into the real world. Read the rest of this entry »

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John Fund & Hans von Spakovsky: Obama’s ‘Scandal-Free Administration’ Is a Myth 

obama-oval-solo

Even a prominent Trump adviser accepts the false premise that there has been no ‘ethical shadiness.’

John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky write: You often hear that the Obama administration, whatever its other failings, has been “scandal-free.” Valerie Jarrett, the president’s closest adviser, has said he “prides himself on the fact that his administration hasn’t had a scandal and he hasn’t done something to embarrass himself.”

Even Trump adviser Peter Thiel seems to agree. When the New York Times’s Maureen Dowd observed during an interview that Mr. Obama’s administration was “without any ethical shadiness,” Mr. Thiel accepted the premise, saying: “But there’s a point where no corruption can be a bad thing. It can mean that things are too boring.”

In reality, Mr. Obama has presided over some of the worst scandals of any president in recent decades. Here’s a partial list:

• State Department email. In an effort to evade federal open-records laws, Mr. Obama’s first secretary of state set up a private server, which she used exclusively to conduct official business, including communications withobama-BW the president and the transmission of classified material. A federal criminal investigation produced no charges, but FBI Director James Comey reported that the secretary and her colleagues “were extremely careless” in handling national secrets.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

• Operation Fast and Furious. The Obama Justice Department lost track of thousands of guns it had allowed to pass into the hands of suspected smugglers, in the hope of tracing them to Mexican drug cartels. One of the guns was used in the fatal 2010 shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Congress held then-Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt when he refused to turn over documents about the operation.

• IRS abuses. Mr. Obama’s Internal Revenue Service did something Richard Nixononly dreamed of doing: It successfully targeted political opponents. The Justice Department then refused to enforce Congress’s contempt citation against the IRS’s Lois Lerner, who refused to answer questions about her agency’s misconduct. Read the rest of this entry »


How Your DVR was Hijacked to Help Epic Cyberattack

The massive siege on Dyn, a New Hampshire-based company that monitors and routes Internet traffic, shows those ominous predictions are now a reality.

“The complexity of this attack is because it’s so distributed. It’s coming from tens of millions of source IP addresses that are globally distributed around the world. What they’re doing is moving around the world with each attack.”

An unknown attacker intermittently knocked many popular websites offline for hours Friday, from Amazon to Twitter and Netflix to Etsy. How the breach occurred is a cautionary tale of the how the rush to make humdrum devices “smart” while sometimes leaving out crucial security can have major consequences.

Dyn, a provider of Internet management for multiple companies, was hit with a large-scale distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), in which its servers were flooded with millions of fake requests for information, so many that they could no longer respond to real ones and crashed under the weight.

[Read the full story here, at USAToday]

Who orchestrated the attack is still unknown. But how they did it — by enslaving ordinary household electronic devices such as DVRs, routers and digital closed-circuit cameras —is established.

The attackers created a digital army of co-opted robot networks, a “botnet,” that spewed millions of nonsense messages at Dyn’s servers. Like a firehose, they could direct it at will, knocking out the servers, turning down the flow and then hitting it full blast once again.

The specific weapon? An easy-to-use botnet-creating software called Mirai that requires little technical expertise. An unknown person released it to the hacker underground earlier this month, and security experts immediately warned it might come into more general use.

Mirai insinuates itself into household devices without the owner’s knowledge, using them as platforms to send the sever-clogging messages even as the device continues to do its day job for its true owner. Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. Shuts Down International $180 M ‘Psychic’ Mail Fraud Linked to Hong Kong Firm

hk-fraud

New York judge bans eight parties from sending promotional materials, including a company with a branch in Sheung Wan.

US authorities have shut down a long-running international “psychic” mail fraud ring linked to a Hong Kong company that cheated over a million Americans out of more than US$180 million.

“This widespread scam targeted more than one million Americans, many of whom were elderly or in financial distress.”

— Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division

It was understood Hong Kong police have not received any complaints about such a scam or the local firm, Destiny Research Center Limited.

A federal judge from the Eastern District of New York approved a consent decree on Monday, permanently banning eight parties, including Destiny Research Center and its president, Martin Dettling of Zurich, from using the US mail system to send ads, promotional materials and solicitations on behalf of self-styled psychics, astrologers and clairvoyants.

[Hundreds of Hong Kong home owners cheated by scammers posing as financial agents: HK$320 million in new debts for victims]

Since 2000, the defendants allegedly preyed upon vulnerable Americans’ superstitions and sent them over 56 million letters through the US mail purported to have been written by French psychics Maria Duval and Patrick Guerin. The letters predicted the recipients would become rich through means such as winning the lottery if they bought products and services to secure good fortune.

A teller counts US dollars and Chinese 100-yuan notes at a bank in Hefei, east China's Anhui province on January 16, 2011

One such letter touted how Duval and Guerin shared “clear visions” that recipients would come into “massive sums of money on games of chance” if they paid US$50 for a “mysterious talisman” and a copy of “My Invaluable Guide to My New Life”. Read the rest of this entry »


Meet the Company Offering a Chance at Immortality for $200,000

Frozen Brain

More and more people are signing up to be frozen for a chance at life after death. So the question is, would you?

 writes: In the desert climate of Scottsdale, Arizona, rest 147 brains and bodies, all frozen in liquid nitrogen with the goal of being revived one day.

It’s not science fiction — to some it might not even be science — yet thousands of people around the world have put their trust, lives and fortunes into the promise of cryonics, the practice of preserving a body with antifreeze shortly after death in hopes future medicine might be able to bring the deceased back.

Mad-Science

“If you think back half a century or so, if somebody stopped breathing and their heart stopped beating we would’ve checked them and said they’re dead,” said Max More, CEO of the Scottsdale-based Alcor. “Our view is that when we call someone dead it’s a bit of an arbitrary line. In fact they are in need of a rescue.”

That “rescue” begins the moment a doctor declares a patient dead. Alcor’s team then prepares an ice bath and begins administering 16 medications and variations of antifreeze until the patient’s temperature drops to near freezing.

Alcor CEO Max More poses in front of the dewars that house his 147 cryopreserved patients.

Alcor CEO Max More poses in front of the dewars that house his 147 cryopreserved patients. Qin Chen | CNBC

“The critical thing is how fast we get to someone and how quickly we start the cooling process,” More said. In order to ensure that can happen, Alcor stations equipped teams in the U.K., Canada and Germany and offers members a $10,000 incentive to legally die in Scottsdale, where the record for getting a patient cooled down and prepped for an operation is 35 minutes.

Next, a contracted surgeon removes a patient’s head if the member selected Alcor’s “Neuro” option, as it’s euphemistically called, in hopes that a new body can be grown with a member’s DNA once it comes time to be thawed out. It’s also the much cheaper route. At a price tag of $80,000, it’s less than half the cost of preserving your whole body. “That requires a minimum of $200,000, which isn’t as much as it sounds, because most people pay with life insurance,” More said.

Alcor-3

In fact, such a business model is pretty consistent in the nonprofit cryonics community. Michigan-based Cryonics Institute offers a similar payment structure, albeit at the more affordable cost of just $28,000 for whole-body preservation. Which begs the question: Why the price discrepancy?

“We’ve been very conservative in the way we plan the financing,” More said. “Of that $200,000, about $115,000 of it goes into the patient care trust fund,” which is meant to cover eventual costs and is controlled by a board of trustees (a certain number of which is required to have loved ones currently in cryopreservation). More says the trust currently boasts a total of over $10 million, which is supported by Alcor’s most recent nonprofit 990 filings.

Who is doing this?

When More came to the U.S. in 1986 from Britain to train at Alcor, it was run by volunteers and he signed up as Alcor’s 67th member. Since then, the company has hired a full-time staff of eight employees, boosted its membership to more than 1,000, and is looking into doubling the size of its patient care bay.

Read the rest of this entry »


Tony Stark, Global Taxation Advocate: Elon Musk Just Demanded a Carbon Tax in Paris

tony-stark

Matthew DeBord reports: Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gave a speech in Paris on Wednesday at the Sorbonne, and he called in no uncertain terms for a carbon tax.

“Musk isn’t a newcomer to the idea of a carbon tax. He’s been calling for one for years. But the evolution of his businesses and the advent of Tesla Energy, his power-storage undertaking, appear to have sharpened his pitch.”

“We have to fix the unpriced externality,” he told the audience, shifting into the wonky quasi-academic mode that he actually appears to enjoy indulging in, when he isn’t running two companies and serving as the Chairman of a third, Solar City.

[Also see – Elon Musk says the refugee crisis is ‘just a glimpse of what’s to come if we ignore climate change‘]

[Musk has never just been about building cars, or going to Mars, or applying solar power more widely]

His entire speech hinged on this simple observation: that the addition of carbon to the atmosphere is effectively a worldwide subsidy that’s contributing to global warming and preventing humanity from freeing itself from the fossil fuel era.

Musk in Paris Slide

[Read the full story here, at Business Insider]

Musk called this a “hidden carbon subsidy of $5.3 trillion per year,” citing the IMF. In response to questions after his speech, he said that a good outcome of the current UN Climate Summit (COP21) taking place in France would be that governments “put their foot down” and use a revenue neutral, gradually applied carbon tax to accelerate the shift from an economy driven by fossil fuels to one driven by sustainable energy.

Musk in Paris

ScreenshotThe “untaxed negative externality” is the right to put carbon into the atmosphere for free.

Musk is convinced that the current fossil fuel era will end — it’s just a question of when. In his analysis, the transition will occur simply because we’ll run out of carbon-based stuff that we can dig out of the ground and burn. But the existing carbon subsidy, in his estimation, is slowing down progress. Read the rest of this entry »


Creator of Passwords Says They’ve Gotten Out of Hand. ‘It’s Become Kind of a Nightmare’


[AUDIO] Louis C.K. Reflects On Louie

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In the FX TV series Louie, comic Louis C.K. plays a divorced father of two struggling to balance his comedy career with being a single dad. The show, which has just been picked up for a third season, is often based on events that have happened to C.K. in his own life.

[Play the audio of the NPR interview with Louis C.K., or download it here]

C.K.’s boundary-crossing humor has always appealed to other comedians, but in the past year, the stand-up comic has also racked up a series of honors from more mainstream sources. GQ recently called him the “funniest comic alive” and named him their “Comic Genius of the Year.” Rolling Stone said C.K. is currently the “darkest, funniest comedian in America.” And Time called Louie the top show of the year, shortlisting C.K. on the magazine’s list of the most influential people in 2011.

[Louis C.K. has written for The Late Show with David LettermanThe Chris Rock Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brien]

C.K. writes, directs, edits and produces Louie, which has been nominated for several Emmys. He took a similar hands-on approach for his latest comedy special,Live at the Beacon Theater. The hourlong broadcast, filmed in front of a live crowd over two nights in November, was produced with C.K’s own money, edited entirely by him, and then released independently on his website, bypassing network cable and video.

An Unorthodox Way To Release A Comedy Special

C.K. asked his fans to contribute $5 directly to him via PayPal, in exchange for two streams and two downloads of the unencrypted, high-definition show. He explains that he chose the unorthodox method of sharing his special to see if releasing a video himself could potentially make money.


Note: This video contains content some will find offensive.

“I’ve never seen a check from a [TV] comedy special,” he tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “It never ends up being that. … This time, I just thought this might be interesting to give this a try. Put it on my website, make it $5, make it really, really easy for people to enjoy. To make it as close to a viral video as possible, instead of having it on TV.”

Read the rest of this entry »


The Quest for Immortality: We May Already Know How We Will Cure Death. Should We?

Aubrey de Grey is head of a Silicon Valley-based research team bent on reversing aging just in time for de Grey to live forever. David Alvarado & Jason Sussberg

Aubrey de Grey is head of a Silicon Valley-based research team bent on reversing aging just in time for de Grey to live forever. David Alvarado & Jason Sussberg

Christopher Mims writes:  A pair of advocates—they do legitimate research too, but their ardor is so intense, it’s hard to call them scientists—believe that they will, within their lifetimes, make ours the first generation of humans to live forever.

“Once we are really truly repairing things as fast as they go wrong, game over. We will have the ability to live indefinitely.”

— Aubrey de Grey

Their quest is elegantly laid out in The Immortalists, a new documentary making its way around the film festival circuit. The Immortalists follows the triumphs and tragedies of three years in the lives of William H. Andrews and Aubrey de Grey, two men who prove just as interesting as the work they’re doing. The Immortalists is really a film about death, not life, which is what makes it so fascinating.

Here’s the trailer:

The goal of Andrews and de Grey is not merely to extend life, but to actually reverse the aging process. “Once we are really truly repairing things as fast as they go wrong, game over,” de Grey says in the film. “We will have the ability to live indefinitely.”

Read the rest of this entry »


“If, for any reason, we are unable to finance solar energy systems through tax-advantaged structures … we may no longer be able to provide solar energy systems to new customers on an economically viable basis”

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How to Succeed in Solar Energy: Grab Government Giveaways

What’s the secret sauce? You guessed it…

Lisa De Pasquale reports:  Time and time again, the free market has spoken on alternative energy companies.  Yet, we keep hearing about booming companies like SolarCity.  Watchdog.org (via FoxNews.com) knows the secret to their success:

The company’s stock, initially offered at $8 a share in December 2012, is trading around $82 a share early Monday. And in a shareholder’s meeting last week, company officials said they’re bullish on the company’s future.

Buried in SolarCity documents is the secret to that success. Musk, the billionaire who founded PayPal and is chief executive officer and product architect of electric carmaker Tesla, has built SolarCity on government giveaways — subsidies that will decrease substantially in the next two years.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Emerging Pro-Monarchy Movement: Neoreactionaries and the ‘Dark Enlightenment’

“Reactionary” originally meant someone who opposed the French Revolution, and today the term generally refers to those who would like to return to some pre-existing state of affairs. Neoreaction — aka “dark enlightenment"— begins with computer scientist and entrepreneur Curtis Yarvin, who blogs under the name Mencius Moldbug

“Reactionary” originally meant someone who opposed the French Revolution, and today the term generally refers to those who would like to return to some pre-existing state of affairs. Neoreaction — aka “dark enlightenment”— begins with computer scientist and entrepreneur Curtis Yarvin, who blogs under the name Mencius Moldbug. 

 writes: Many of us yearn for a return to one golden age or another. But there’s a community of bloggers taking the idea to an extreme: they want to turn the dial way back to the days before the French Revolution.

Neoreactionaries believe that while technology and capitalism have advanced humanity over the past couple centuries, democracy has actually done more harm than good. They propose a return to old-fashioned gender roles, social order and monarchy.

You may have seen them crop-up on tech hangouts like Hacker News and Less Wrong, having cryptic conversations about “Moldbug” and “the Cathedral.” And though neoreactionaries aren’t exactly rampant in the tech industry, PayPal founder Peter Thiel has voiced similar ideas, and Pax Dickinson, the former CTO of Business Insider, says he’s been influenced by neoreactionary thought. It may be a small, minority world view, but it’s one that I think shines some light on the psyche of contemporary tech culture.

Enough has been written on neoreaction already to fill at least a couple of books, so if you prefer to go straight to the source, just pop a Modafinil and skip to the “Neoreaction Reading List” at the end of this post. For everyone else, I’ll do my best to summarize neoreactionary thought and why it might matter.

Who Are the Neoreactionaries?

“Reactionary” originally meant someone who opposed the French Revolution, and today the term generally refers to those who would like to return to some pre-existing state of affairs. Neoreaction — aka “dark enlightenment”— begins with computer scientist and entrepreneur Curtis Yarvin, who blogs under the name Mencius Moldbug. Yarvin — the self-described Sith Lord of the movement — got his start as a commenter on sites like 2blowhards before starting his own blog Unqualified Reservations in 2007. Yarvin originally called his ideology “formalism,” but in 2010 libertarian blogger Arnold Kling referred to him as a “neo-reactionary.” The name stuck as more bloggers — such as Anomaly UK (who helped popularize the term), Nick Land (who coined “dark enlightenment”) andMichael Anissimov — started to self-identify as neoreactionary. Read the rest of this entry »


Washington isn’t working

credit: photoblog.nbcnews.com

credit: photoblog.nbcnews.com

While scientists are innovating and creating, politicians aren’t doing much of anything.

Glenn Reynolds writes: There are two Americas, all right. There’s one that works — where new and creative things happen, where mistakes are corrected, and where excellence is rewarded. Then there’s Washington, where everything is pretty much the opposite. That has been particularly evident over the past week or so. One America can launch rockets. The other America can’t even launch a website.

In Washington, it’s been stalemate, impasse, and theater — the kind of place where a government shutdown leads park rangers to complain, “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.” Well, yes. The politics don’t work, the websites don’t work — even for the people who manage to log on — and the government shutdown informs us that most of government is “non-essential.” Instead of correcting mistakes or rewarding excellence, it’s mostly finger-pointing, blame-shifting, and excuse-making. Read the rest of this entry »