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Day 10: A Fiverr for Department of State
Wow, this has just not been the best year for America's top diplomatic institution, the United States Department of State. First, there was the whole "blame-it-on-YouTube" incident in Benghazi a year or so ago. And then, apparently, there's just not enough love (or at least "Like") in the Department of State (which abbreviates, disturbingly, as DoS, which we all know as Denial of Service). Hmmm...
In any case, some very lonely officials at Foggy Bottom decided that they wanted to froth up their reputation, and decided to go about spending $630 thousand on acquiring Facebook "Likes". Yep, almost a million bucks to raise their likability on Facebook. Using our tax dollars.
After this, State's own inspector general put together a 57-page report on how much money was wasted on getting Facebook "Likes," because writing a 57-page report at government speed was an excellent way to throw good money after bad.
So, to both the State Department itself as well as State's Inspector General -- and, hey, let's be generous and include Hillary and John Kerry as well -- we gift a free registration to Fiverr.com. You can get almost anything from Fiverr for five bucks.
You want a pile of useless Facebook Likes? Rather than spending nearly a million bucks, pull out a Lincoln and you got it. Want a 57-page report on something? Another five bucks. We estimate that with this gift, we can save State millions of dollars.
Not spending our money? Hmmm... I wonder if people will "Like" that?
Day 11: Cybersecurity policy with the wisdom of Franklin, Jefferson and Adams
What a difference a year makes. We opened up this year with a big (and very necessary) push to increase America's cybersecurity defenses (and, less publicly, it's offensive capabilities as well). We ended the year with the government on the defensive about its own data gathering practices, with barely a mention made anywhere about the ongoing, terrible threat of cyberattack.
It's hard to find a gift for the gift that keeps on giving, and that's what cyberwar is. Whether it's for espionage, money, or damage, cyberattacks and penetration attempts are constant, both against government and civilian targets.
Worse, it's not just the big players fighting with each other. Cyberattackers are aiming their digital arrows at moms and dads, grandparents, teachers, students, and even little kids. They're trying to break into and steal information, credentials, and identities of anyone they can -- and they're succeeding.
While we already have laws on the books for cyberdefense, we don't have good comprehensive laws. As is always the case in a union, the various agencies and operations don't play all that well with each other. Yeah, I know. It's a surprise to me, too.
Our gift to the United States government would be all the funding needed to fight cyberattacks, but only if it employs the wisdom of a Washington or a Jefferson or a Franklin while doing so. We encourage the government to work with the likes of Larry Lessig, the EFF, and other outspoken proponents of both digital rights and digital safety.
If our public servants can put Americans' interests first (and that means not taking any more calls, lunches, or favors from lobbyists), then comprehensive cybersecurity operations are possible.
Day 12: No Internet sales taxes for you!
You know how you sometimes make those wish lists and fill them with everything you'd like, even when you know it's not advisable? You know how you really want five bags of Cheetos even though you'll be sick for a week?
Well, sometimes, the very best gift is the gift of saving you from yourself by protecting you from your own worst instincts. That's what this last gift, on the Twelfth Day of Congress is all about.
On this, the Twelfth Day of Congress, we give you the gift of not taxing Internet sales. Oh yes, I know you want to let every state and municipality go wild on sales and use taxes, you want to beat the heck out of Amazon for making so much money, and you really want to get extra cash for the states, not from the federal coffers, but from consumers.
But Internet sales tax would be bad for everyone. Our gift is to take that away from you. No Internet sales tax for you. Merry holidays and all that!