Daily Archive: 12/31/2013

Dec 31 2013

Every Stroke You Make

Yes, quite literally the NSA will be watching every keystroke you make on you computer, cell phone, or i-pad. How you say? Quite simply collusion with the the telecommunications industry along with companies like Microsoft and through its special unit of hackers within the agency’s department for Tailored Access Operations (TAO). In an article in Der Spiegel, these specialists are described as as “master carpenters” who step in when the usual hacking and data-skimming methods fail. These hackers at ANT, which may stand for Advanced or Access Network Technology, step in with their special tools to get the job done.

These NSA agents, who specialize in secret back doors, are able to keep an eye on all levels of our digital lives — from computing centers to individual computers, and from laptops to mobile phones. For nearly every lock, ANT seems to have a key in its toolbox. And no matter what walls companies erect, the NSA’s specialists seem already to have gotten past them.

This, at least, is the impression gained from flipping through the 50-page document. The list reads like a mail-order catalog, one from which other NSA employees can order technologies from the ANT division for tapping their targets’ data. The catalog even lists the prices for these electronic break-in tools, with costs ranging from free to $250,000. [..]

Some of the equipment available is quite inexpensive. A rigged monitor cable that allows “TAO personnel to see what is displayed on the targeted monitor,” for example, is available for just $30. But an “active GSM base station” — a tool that makes it possible to mimic a mobile phone tower and thus monitor cell phones — costs a full $40,000. Computer bugging devices disguised as normal USB plugs, capable of sending and receiving data via radio undetected, are available in packs of 50 for over $1 million. [..]

The ANT division doesn’t just manufacture surveillance hardware. It also develops software for special tasks. The ANT developers have a clear preference for planting their malicious code in so-called BIOS, software located on a computer’s motherboard that is the first thing to load when a computer is turned on.

In another article at FDL‘s Dissenter, Peter Van Buren notes that private enterprise have also become the “tools of the national security state

Once the NSA identifies a “target” (whom we’ll refer here to as “You”), the NSA needs to know when You order a new laptop they want to intercept. That means the NSA has to spy on Your credit card, Your online activities and/or probe into the ordering systems of places like Amazon, Dell and the like. Perhaps there is a sort of “no fly” list distributed to manufacturers that requires notification to the NSA when someone like You on it buys something. Or all of the above.

The NSA then must know when and how Your laptop will be sent to you. That means they need to have been accessing the computer systems of Amazon, Dell and the like, and/or UPS, Fedex and other shippers. Or all of the above.

The NSA then has to have physical access to the warehouse of the shipping company. Or, the shipping company has to agree to mark your package, and deliver it instead to an NSA location. That all means the shipping companies are in on the NSA plot, or the NSA has to be hacking into the shipping companies’ data systems and substituting their address for Yours.

Once in NSA hands, Your package has to be opened, and Your laptop must be altered in some undetectable way. They can’t steam open a box like a letter in the old movies; someone has to open it physically and then get it all buttoned up again without a trace. Does the NSA have a way to unstick packing tape and reseal internal bags, or do they have a ready supply from Dell and Apple of packing materials?

Lastly, the NSA has to return the package into the shipping stream. That means the box, with say Amazon’s return address and Your home address, has to reenter say Fedex’s system from a third location without too many people knowing it happened. It would not do for the low-level UPS guy to pick up a ton of boxes everyday from a nondescript warehouse, all with third-party address labels. This strongly suggests cooperation by the shipping companies.

You then open Your new laptop on Christmas morning. Yeah, be sure to select a secure password. [..]

What we have here is an example of the depths into which You have fallen. The government has recruited private industry into its national security state, down to the level of the Fedex guy delivering packages to Your door in time for Christmas. For those of You who still foolishly insist that such spying is OK because they “have nothing to hide,” I sure as hell hope You are right, because whatever You do have now belongs to Them.

It is fairly certain that whether or not the NSA will be allowed to continues its bulk collection of data will be argued before the Supreme Court after two conflicting ruling from lower courts on the constitutionality of the program. Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director and director of its Center for Democracy; and Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who first broke the story about Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks joined Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! to discuss the court rulings and how the NSA can literally watch every keystroke you make.



Transcript can gbe read here.



Transcript can be read here

Thank you, Edward Snowden.

Dec 31 2013

Glenn Ford

ave you checked out Black Agenda Report?

You really should.

Transcript

Transcript

Transcript

Dec 31 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Dean Baker: The corruption of the economics profession

The public needs expert guidance on economic issues, but moneyed interests have gotten in the way

It is remarkable that the public has been convinced that the earth revolves around the sun. This is remarkable because we can all look up in the sky and see the sun revolving around the earth.

Most of us are willing to believe the direct opposite of what we can see with our own eyes because we accept the analysis of the solar system developed by astronomers through many centuries of careful observation. The overwhelming majority of people will never go through the measurements and reproduce the calculations. Rather, our belief that the earth revolves around the sun depends on our confidence in the competence and integrity of astronomers. If they all tell us that the earth in fact orbits the sun, we are prepared to accept this view.

Unfortunately the economics profession cannot claim to have a similar stature. This is both good and bad. It is good because it doesn’t deserve that stature. Economists too often work as hired guns for those with money and power. It is bad because the public needs expertise in economics, just as it needs expertise in medicine and other areas.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: 2014: Seize the Moment

The Congress has just ended one of the worst and least productive sessions in the history of our country. At a time when the problems facing us are monumental, Congress is dysfunctional and more and more people (especially the young) are, understandably, giving up on the political process. The people are hurting. They look to Washington for help. Nothing is happening.

In my view, the main cause of congressional dysfunction is an extreme right-wing Republican party whose main goal is to protect the wealthy and powerful. There is no tax break for the rich or large corporations that they don’t like. There is no program which protects working families — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, affordable housing, etc. — that they don’t want to cut.

But the Democrats (with whom I caucus as an Independent) are most certainly not without fault. In the Senate, they have tolerated Republican obstructionism for much too long and allowed major legislation to fail for lack of 60 votes. They have failed to bring forth a strong and consistent agenda which addresses the economic crises facing the vast majority of our struggling population, and have not rallied the people in support of that agenda.

Chris Hedges: Overthrow the Speculators

Speculators at megabanks or investment firms such as Goldman Sachs are not, in a strict sense, capitalists. They do not make money from the means of production. Rather, they ignore or rewrite the law-ostensibly put in place to protect the vulnerable from the powerful-to steal from everyone, including their shareholders. They are parasites. They feed off the carcass of industrial capitalism. They produce nothing. They make nothing. They just manipulate money. Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged.

We can wrest back control of our economy, and finally our political system, from corporate speculators only by building local movements that decentralize economic power through the creation of hundreds of publicly owned state, county and city banks.

The establishment of city, regional and state banks, such as the state public bank in North Dakota, permits localities to invest money in community projects rather than hand it to speculators. It keeps property and sales taxes, along with payrolls for public employees and pension funds, from lining the pockets of speculators such as Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein. Money, instead of engorging the bank accounts of the few, is leveraged to fund schools, restore infrastructure, sustain systems of mass transit and develop energy self-reliance.

Jeff Jarvis: The primary NSA issue isn’t privacy, it’s authority

At heart, the NSA debate is about what the government is allowed to do with what it knows and who is overseeing it

I celebrate Judge Richard J Leon’s opinion that the government’s mass collection of communications metadata is “almost Orwellian”, and I decry Judge William H Pauley III’s decision that the NSA’s collection is both effective and legally perfectly peachy.

But I worry that the judges, as well as many commentators and Edward Snowden himself, may be debating on the wrong plane. I see some danger in arguing the case as a matter of privacy because I fear that could have serious impact on our concept of knowledge, of what is allowed to be known and thus of freedom of speech. Instead, I think this is an argument about authority – not so much what government (or anyone else) is allowed to know but what government, holding unique powers, is allowed to do with what it knows. [..]

In the search for a legally protected right to privacy in the United States, begun with Brandeis and Warren in 1890, the Fourth Amendment has been interpreted as affording privacy protection as have the First Amendment (freedom of belief) and the Fifth (freedom against self-incrimination). In each case, though, the right is not so much for something – privacy – as against something – namely, government abuse.

Paul Buchheit: The Shocking Redistribution of Wealth in the Past Five Years

Anyone reviewing the data is likely to conclude that there must be some mistake. It doesn’t seem possible that one out of twenty American families could each have made a million dollars since Obama became President, while the average American family’s net worth has barely recovered. But the evidence comes from numerous reputable sources.

Some conservatives continue to claim that President Obama is unfriendly to business, but the facts show that the richest Americans and the biggest businesses have been the main – perhaps only – beneficiaries of the massive wealth gain over the past five years. [..]

President Obama recently proclaimed that inequality “drives everything I do in this office.” Indeed it may, but in the wrong direction.

William Cohen: As NSA Spy Debate Heats Up in 2014 Don’t Believe the Security Hype

A new year of media noise begins, and with it an avalanche of propaganda. With the public growing wary of privacy intrusions, the NSA debate is heating up and the message from power centers will focus on the effectiveness of the spy program in stopping terror attacks, the effective controls in place to prevent abuse, and the danger to the public posed by traitorous leakers of secret operations. These claims are all false.

Yet these are the claims endorsed in the December 27 ruling upholding the legality of the NSA spy program by U.S. federal judge William Pauley III in ACLU v. Clapper. Judge Pauley’s ruling is full of deference to government and its need for secrecy. However, a December 16 ruling by federal judge Richard Leon in Klayman v. Obama exposes that the claims made by the government are wrong. Judge Leon characterizes the NSA spy program as Orwellian and violating fundamental constitutional safeguards. [..]

With a conflict between federal judges, the legality of the NSA spy program will likely be resolved by the Supreme Court in 2014, after the appeals courts in Pauley and Leon’s districts have their say. It is an open question how the Court will rule. Consider that Judge Leon was appointed by Bush 43, and Judge Pauley by Clinton. Politics and ideology are not at all predictable when it comes to views on the NSA spy program.

The Court is a powerful and conservative institution. Yet the Court is swayed by public sentiment. The best way for people to influence the law is to raise their voices against the clear violations by the national security state and the bogus arguments now being used to defend itself from further scrutiny.

Dec 31 2013

On This Day In History December 31

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 31 is the 365th day of the year (366th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. The last day of the year in the Gregorian calendar, it is widely known as New Year’s Eve.

On this day in 1759, Arthur Guinness signs a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum and starts brewing Guinness.

Guiness is a popular Irish dry stout. Guinness is directly descended from the porter style that originated in London in the early 18th century and is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide.

A distinctive feature is the burnt flavour which is derived from the use of roasted unmalted barley (though this is a relatively modern development since it did not become a part of the grist until well into the 20th century). For many years a portion of aged brew was blended with freshly brewed product to give a sharp lactic flavour (which was a characteristic of the original Porter).

Although the palate of Guinness still features a characteristic “tang”, the company has refused to confirm whether this type of blending still occurs. The thick creamy head is the result of the beer being mixed with nitrogen when being poured. It is popular with Irish people both in Ireland and abroad and, in spite of a decline in consumption since 2001[1], is still the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland where Guinness & Co. makes almost €2 billion annually.

The company had its headquarters in London from 1932 onwards. It merged with Grand Metropolitan plc in 1997 and then figured in the development of the multi-national alcohol conglomerate Diageo.

Arthur Guinness started brewing ales from 1759 at the St. James’s Gate Brewery, Dublin. On 31 December he signed (up to) a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum for the unused brewery. Ten years later on 19 May 1769 Guinness exported his ale for the first time, when six and a half barrels were shipped to England.

Guinness is sometimes believed to have invented stout,[citation needed] however the first known use of the word stout in relation to beer appears in a letter in the Egerton Manuscript dated 1677, almost 50 years before Arthur Guinness was born.

Arthur Guinness started selling the dark beer porter in 1778. The first Guinness beers to use the term were Single Stout and Double Stout in the 1840s.

The breweries pioneered several quality control efforts. The brewery hired the statistician William Sealy Gosset in 1899, who achieved lasting fame under the pseudonym “Student” for techniques developed for Guinness, particularly Student’s t-distribution and the even more commonly known Student’s t-test.

Guinness brewed their last porter in 1974.

Guinness has also been referred to as “the black stuff” and as a “Pint of Plain” – referred to in the famous refrain of Flann O’Brien’s poem “The Workman’s Friend”: “A pint of plain is your only man.”

Dec 31 2013

Awakening

Quicksilver Messenger Service

43 years ago, in 1970, shortly after Kent State…

You poisoned my sweet water.

You cut down my green trees.

The food you fed my children

Was the cause of their disease.

My world is slowly fallin’ down

And the airs not good to breathe.

And those of us who care enough,

We have to do something…….

(Chorus)

Oh…….oh What you gonna do about me?

Oh…….oh What you gonna do about me?

Your newspapers,

They just put you on

They never tell you

The whole story

They just put your

Young ideas down

I was wonderin’ could this be the end

Of your pride and glory?

(Chorus)

I work in your factory

I study in your schools

I fill your penitentiaries

And your military too!

And I feel the future trembling

As the word is passed around

If you stand up for what you do believe

Be prepared to be shot down

(Chorus)

And I feel like a stranger

In the land where I was born

And I live like an outlaw

An’ I’m always on the run……..

And I’m always getting busted

And I got to take a stand……..

I believe the revolution

Must be mighty close at hand……..

(Chorus)

I smoke marijuana

But I cant get behind your wars

And most of what I do believe

Is against most of your laws

I’m a fugitive from injustice

But I’m goin’ to be free

Cause your rules and regulations

They don’t do the thing for me

(Chorus)

And I feel like a stranger

In the land where I was born

And I live just like an outlaw

An’ I’m always on the run

And though you may be stronger now, my time will come around.

You keep adding to my numbers, and you shoot my people down.