Daily Archive: 02/20/2015

Feb 20 2015

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”.

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Richard (RJ) Eskow: 3 Signs That Young Americans Are Getting a Raw Deal

Young Americans face a weak job market, crushing student debt, and an economy in which their current earnings determine their financial future.

These three signs add up to one stark reality: A nation which prides itself on being the land of opportunity is closing the avenues of financial advancement for an entire generation. There are ways to change that, but only if we take action. An aggressive job program for younger Americans, combined with student debt relief, would certainly help.

In the end, however, we can’t solve the problems of young America without solving the inequality and wage stagnation which hamper the economy for most Americans. We’ll need a pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda for all Americans.

One thing is clear: Until we take action, a nation which sings anthems to its young – “teach the children well,” “I believe the children are our future” – will have abdicated its responsibility toward its young.

Songs may inspire us — but numbers don’t lie.

David Cay Johnston: American companies are getting older, not better

Studies show older businesses result in lower growth and greater inequality

American companies are getting older. That’s not good for economic growth, inequality, jobs or wages.

Research suggests that rather than creating a dynamic economy in which entrepreneurs start new companies to sell better widgets and smarter services, current government rules are protecting existing firms and depressing wages, inducing the economic equivalent of heart disease and arterial sclerosis.

Decades of glib talk idolizing business founders have shaped popular understanding. We have become accustomed to idea of America as a nation where entrepreneurs boldly start businesses, whose growth and profitability drive the economy.

The reality, various studies show, is that rather than being young and vibrant, American business is aging as subtle barriers discourage upstart competitors and as workers lose the power to bargain for more pay.

Nozomi Hayaze: Greece Is Taking Back Its Democracy, What About the United States?

Recently, Greece’s radical leftist party Syriza claimed victory in their national election. The party vowed to break ties with the European Central bank and roll back the EU’s neoliberal economic agenda. True to their word, they are already implementing some of those changes. From the birthplace of democracy, excitement is spreading across Europe and revitalizing the hope that real change may still be possible through the electoral arena.

The news from Greece also energized progressive circles in America. For many, the question arises: Can this rebirth of democracy happen in the U.S.? After Obama’s absolute betrayal of his promised “hope and change”, the Occupy Movement began in lower Manhattan as a response to the rigged system that has been creating economic inequality approaching the level of feudalism.

This was an awakening to a broken system of checks and balances and it pushed people outside of the electoral arena to find solutions to these problems. Yet, by 2012, with massive coordinated police brutality around the nation, the demise of Occupy became apparent and the movement lost momentum. Now it seems that the Greeks are doing what it appears Occupy intended to do and failed. What about Americans?

Lawrence Lessig: Something Is Going Right: Net Neutrality and the FCC

Imagine that when you plugged something into an electrical outlet, the outlet queried the device and demanded identification. Was it a Sony TV or Panasonic? Was it a Dell or an Apple? And then based on that identification, different levels of quality or reliability of electricity were served at different prices. No doubt such a regime would benefit utility companies. I’ve not yet met anyone who thinks it would benefit innovation. Thus, it would be something possibly good for network providers, but plainly bad for the market generally.  [..]

Defenders of the status quo are now frantically filling the tubes with FUD about the FCC’s decision. But as you work through this FUD, keep one basic fact clear. Relative to practically every other comparable nation, America’s broadband sucks. Seriously, sucks. Even France beats us in cost and quality. And as the genius Yochai Benkler established in the monumental report by the Berkman Center commissioned by the FCC after Obama was elected, the single most important reason our broadband sucks is the sell-out regulatory strategy of the prior decade at least. Nations that imposed neutrality-like rules beat us, in cost and quality. They have more competition, faster growth, and better access. So for anyone remotely connected to reality-based policy making, it has been clear forever that America made a wrong turn in its regulatory strategy, and that we needed an about face.

Peter van Buren: War Porn

In the age of the all-volunteer military and an endless stream of war zone losses and ties, it can be hard to keep Homeland enthusiasm up for perpetual war. After all, you don’t get a 9/11 every year to refresh those images of the barbarians at the airport departure gates. In the meantime, Americans are clearly finding it difficult to remain emotionally roiled up about our confusing wars in Syria and Iraq, the sputtering one in Afghanistan, and various raids, drone attacks, and minor conflicts elsewhere.

Fortunately, we have just the ticket, one that has been punched again and again for close to a century: Hollywood war movies (to which the Pentagon is always eager to lend a helping hand).American Sniper, which started out with the celebratory tagline “the most lethal sniper in U.S. history” and now has the tagline “the most successful war movie of all time,” is just the latest in a long line of films that have kept Americans on their war game. Think of them as war porn, meant to leave us perpetually hyped up. Now, grab some popcorn and settle back to enjoy the show.

Norman Lear: Don’t You Just Love People Who Love America?

I mean, how rare is that! Can we ever thank enough the red, white and blue patriots — the true America-lovers — like Rudy Giuliani for pointing the finger at those, like our president, who so clearly don’t love it. [..]

Anyway, the president may use the English language better, but it’s clear he wasn’t brought up as well as Giuliani was brought up, through love of America. And I’m kind of ashamed to admit it, but I guess Rudy was brought up better than me, too. See, I can’t really tell when someone doesn’t love America. Unless I catch them stomping on a flag pin. Or on another American because he doesn’t love America enough.

Feb 20 2015

The Breakfast Club (The Writing on the Walls)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Astronaut John Glenn becomes the first American in orbit; the Rhode Island nightclub fire; Actor Sydney Poitier born; Tara Lipinski becomes the youngest gold medalist in the Winter Olympics.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

The Utopia Of My Childhood

I just don’t get this belief that the everything was safe in the good old days but now everything is dangerous. Not actually true.

Atrios

Feb 20 2015

On This Day In History February 20

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.

February 20 is the 51st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 314 days remaining until the end of the year (315 in leap years).

On this day in 1792, President George Washington signs legislation renewing the United States Post Office as a cabinet department led by the postmaster general, guaranteeing inexpensive delivery of all newspapers, stipulating the right to privacy and granting Congress the ability to expand postal service to new areas of the nation.

History

William Goddard, a Patriot printer frustrated that the royal postal service was unable to reliably deliver his Pennsylvania Chronicle to its readers or deliver critical news for the paper to Goddard, laid out a plan for the “Constitutional Post” before the Continental Congress on October 5, 1774. Congress waited to act on the plan until after the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Benjamin Franklin promoted Goddard’s plan and served as the first postmaster general under the Continental Congress beginning on July 26, 1775, nearly one year before the Congress declared independence from the British Crown. Franklin’s son-in-law, Richard Bache, took over the position on November 7, 1776, when Franklin became an American emissary to France.

Franklin had already made a significant contribution to the postal service in the colonies while serving as the postmaster of Philadelphia from 1737 and as joint postmaster general of the colonies from 1753 to 1774, when he was fired for opening and publishing Massachusetts Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson‘s correspondence. While postmaster, Franklin streamlined postal delivery with properly surveyed and marked routes from Maine to Florida (the origins of Route 1), instituted overnight postal travel between the critical cities of New York and Philadelphia and created a standardized rate chart based upon weight and distance. [3]

Samuel Osgood held the postmaster general’s position in New York City from 1789, when the U.S. Constitution came into effect, until the government moved to Philadelphia in 1791. Timothy Pickering took over and, about a year later, the Postal Service Act gave his post greater legislative legitimacy and more effective organization. Pickering continued in the position until 1795, when he briefly served as secretary of war, before becoming the third U.S. secretary of state. The postmaster general’s position was considered a plum patronage post for political allies of the president until the Postal Service was transformed into a corporation run by a board of governors in 1971 following passage of the Postal Reorganization Act.

Feb 20 2015

A Bird in the Hand

In remarks on foreign policy before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, potential 2016 GOP presidential hopeful, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush attempted to distance himself from his brother President George W. Bush and his father, Pres. George H. W. Bush, insisting that he is “his own man.”

He pretty much stumbled and fumbled, even with the telepromter, and, quite obviously isn’t ready for prime time on foreign policy.

One way he unmistakably resembles his father and brother is in his apparent discomfort with a prepared text. He appeared far more at ease answering questions than delivering his speech, which he read quickly, without the authority he has often shown when discussing domestic issues.

Still, his responses were not mistake-free: When he sought to attack President Obama, he inflated the number of Islamic State fighters, saying in his remarks that there were 200,000. A spokeswoman for Mr. Bush later clarified that he had meant to say 20,000. At another point, he pronounced Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group based in Nigeria, as “Boku Haram.”

Mr. Bush said his formative experience on foreign policy had come not from watching his brother or father serve as commander in chief, but as a 20-something working and starting a family in Venezuela, and then as the governor of a state actively involved in foreign trade.

He recalled how many times he had visited Israel (five) and noted that he had “forced” himself to visit Asia four times each year.

Despite explaining how his biography differed – he recalled the high price of Pampers in Caracas – Mr. Bush is benefiting from the former presidents Bush.

As bad as his appearance was, the real problem is that someone forgot to tell his staff that it might not be a good idea to release the list of foreign policy advisers that Jeb has decided to be on his team.

The list represents the full spectrum of views within the Republican foreign policy establishment – from relative moderates, including former secretaries of state George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III, to staunch neoconservatives such as Iraq war architect Paul D. Wolfowitz.  [..]

Among Bush’s announced advisers are several viewed as staunch defenders of the CIA, including former director Michael V. Hayden, who came under heavy criticism in a recent Senate Intelligence Committee report about the agency’s interrogation techniques.

Just as telling were those missing from the official list.

Although former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is at least as close personally to the Bush family as anyone on the list – and has consulted with the former Florida governor – the absence of her name suggests that he is sensitive about being seen as a carbon copy of his brother.

Al the Bushes Men (and women) photo BushMenv4_zps72021e63.png

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The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree or that far from his older bother.

Feb 20 2015

Even Encrypted Phones Are Not Safe from Spy Agencies

According to documents given to The Intercept by whistleblower Edward Snowden, even the newest cell phones (3G, 4G and LTE0 are not safe from the spies of the NSA and it British counterpart, GCHQ. According to the article, one of the largest manufacturers of SIM cards, which all cell phones depend on for communications, were hacked by these agencies spies who stole the encryption keys. This has given them access to even to billions of cell phones all over the world. As usual, Intercept contributors, Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley are very thorough in their extensive article but here is the core or the report:

The company targeted by the intelligence agencies, Gemalto, is a multinational firm incorporated in the Netherlands that makes the chips used in mobile phones and next-generation credit cards. Among its clients are AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers around the world. The company operates in 85 countries and has more than 40 manufacturing facilities. One of its three global headquarters is in Austin, Texas and it has a large factory in Pennsylvania.

In all, Gemalto produces some 2 billion SIM cards a year. Its motto is “Security to be Free.”

With these stolen encryption keys, intelligence agencies can monitor mobile communications without seeking or receiving approval from telecom companies and foreign governments. Possessing the keys also sidesteps the need to get a warrant or a wiretap, while leaving no trace on the wireless provider’s network that the communications were intercepted. Bulk key theft additionally enables the intelligence agencies to unlock any previously encrypted communications they had already intercepted, but did not yet have the ability to decrypt. [..]

GCHQ and the NSA could have taken any number of routes to steal SIM encryption keys and other data. They could have physically broken into a manufacturing plant. They could have broken into a wireless carrier’s office. They could have bribed, blackmailed or coerced an employee of the manufacturer or cellphone provider. But all of that comes with substantial risk of exposure. In the case of Gemalto, hackers working for GCHQ remotely penetrated the company’s computer network in order to steal the keys in bulk as they were en route to the wireless network providers. [..]

TOP-SECRET GCHQ documents reveal that the intelligence agencies accessed the email and Facebook accounts of engineers and other employees of major telecom corporations and SIM card manufacturers in an effort to secretly obtain information that could give them access to millions of encryption keys. They did this by utilizing the NSA’s X-KEYSCORE program, which allowed them access to private emails hosted by the SIM card and mobile companies’ servers, as well as those of major tech corporations, including Yahoo and Google.

In effect, GCHQ clandestinely cyberstalked Gemalto employees, scouring their emails in an effort to find people who may have had access to the company’s core networks and Ki-generating systems. The intelligence agency’s goal was to find information that would aid in breaching Gemalto’s systems, making it possible to steal large quantities of encryption keys. The agency hoped to intercept the files containing the keys as they were transmitted between Gemalto and its wireless network provider customers.

GCHQ operatives identified key individuals and their positions within Gemalto and then dug into their emails. In one instance, GCHQ zeroed in on a Gemalto employee in Thailand who they observed sending PGP-encrypted files, noting that if GCHQ wanted to expand its Gemalto operations, “he would certainly be a good place to start.” They did not claim to have decrypted the employee’s communications, but noted that the use of PGP could mean the contents were potentially valuable.

The cyberstalking was not limited to Gemalto. GCHQ operatives wrote a script that allowed the agency to mine the private communications of employees of major telecommunications and SIM “personalization” companies for technical terms used in the assigning of secret keys to mobile phone customers. Employees for the SIM card manufacturers and wireless network providers were labeled as “known individuals and operators targeted” in a top-secret GCHQ document.

According to experts who were interviewed by The Guardain, this is a huge invasive breach and may still be continuing:

Gemalto, the company targeted by the spy agencies, produces 2bn sim cards per year for clients including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. The Netherlands-based company operates in 85 countries around the world and provides cards to some 450 wireless network providers globally.

The stolen encryption keys would allow intelligence agencies to monitor mobile communications without the approval or knowledge of telecom companies and foreign governments.

Chris Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Guardian the hack would allow spies to “put an aerial up on the embassy in Berlin and listen in to anyone’s calls in the area”.

Calls made on 3G and 4G mobile networks are encrypted. But with the keys, which a GCHQ slide described as living “in the phone”, spies could access any communication made on a device unless its owner uses an extra layer of encryption.

Soghoian said the latest Snowden revelations meant that it was difficult for anyone to trust the security of a mobile phone. “It is very unlikely that this is an issue that is going to be fixed anytime soon,” he said. “There is no reason for people to trust AT&T, Verizon or anyone at this point. Their systems are hopelessly insecure.”

“The real value of this is that it allows bulk surveillance of telecoms without anyone getting caught,” Soghoian said of hacks like the one at Gemalto, which he said would allow the spy agencies to target “whoever they wanted”.

“In countries where the government will not cooperate, that’s very useful,” he said. “It’s also very useful in countries where the government would help. Germany would allow spy on a suspected terrorist but not on [Angela] Merkel.”

This was the second revelation in what Mike Masnick at Techdirt called “This Week In ‘The NSA Knows F**king Everything’“:

Thought that the revelations of NSA/GCHQ spying were dying out? Having some “surveillance fatigue” from all the stories that have been coming out? Have no fear — or, rather, be very very very fearful — because two big new revelations this week show just how far the NSA will go to make sure it collects everything. First up: your hard drives. Earlier this week, Kaspersky Lab revealed that the NSA (likely) has figured out ways to hide its own spyware deep in pretty much any hard drive made by the most popular hard drive manufacturers: Western Digital, Seagate and Toshiba. [..]

As the report notes, it appears that this is a kind of “sleeper” software, that is buried inside tons of hard drives, but only “turned on” when necessary. The report notes that it’s unclear as to how the NSA was getting this software in there, but that it couldn’t do it without knowing the source code of the hard drive firmware — information that is not easily accessible. A few of the hard drive manufacturers have denied working with the government on this and/or giving them access to the firmware. It’s possible they’re lying/misleading — but it’s also possible that the NSA figured out other ways to get that information.

Scahill and Begley quoted President Barack Obama who just a little over a year ago said when he addressed the NSA spying scandal: “The bottom line is that people around the world, regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security and that we take their privacy concerns into account in our policies and procedures.”

Obama again has lied and Congress has failed to rein in the excesses of the NSA and the CIA.