Saturday, March 2, 2013

Subpoenas of Google show law's failings

Updated 9:33 pm, Thursday, January 24, 2013
Google's latest biannual report on government information requests into its users, released this week, highlights for the first time how outdated privacy laws allow access to users' information with only a subpoena - not a warrant, the standard in almost all other searches.

In the United States, from July to December 2012, 68 percent of government requests came via subpoena, Google reported. Just 22 percent were through search warrants. (The remaining 10 percent were legal processes Google said were "difficult to categorize.") In total, government agencies made 14,791 requests on U.S. users and accounts, and Google complied with 90 percent of them.
Google products - search, Gmail, YouTube, Docs, etc. - are accessed billions of time every day by users around the world. Most require accounts, and so, to facilitate better advertising, the search giant stores users' online activity.

But governments want that information too, especially when investigating crimes. Out-of-date digital privacy laws allow law enforcement agencies to sidestep the usual constitutional requirement to obtain a search and use only a subpoena, a document that can be issued by a prosecutor in private, not an impartial judge in open court.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the law that governs such requests, was passed in 1986, well before terms like "e-mail" or "cloud computing" were common. Law enforcement agencies have interpreted the language to mean that they can treat any e-mail older than 180 days stored on a third-party server (such as Gmail or Hotmail) to be abandoned.

Therefore, the logic goes, it has no reasonable expectation of privacy - a key ingredient to the "unreasonable" portion of a search - and can be subpoenaed.  REA;D MORE

The Best Free Software of 2012

The Best Free Software of 2It's the fifth year of PCMag's look at the best stuff you don't have to pay for, and it's our biggest list of great free software yet




167. AbiWord
Windows | Linux | Portable
The key words to think of concerning AbiWord are free and fast. It may not have all the power of Microsoft Word, but the average user won't even notice. Those that hate the Ribbon interface will appreciate going back to the toolbars of yore.
168. Dia
Windows | Mac | Linux | Portable
The open-source equivalent of Microsoft's Visio is ready to make flowcharts, organizational charts, diagrams, and more—all savable to multiple formats.
169. Doc Scrubber
Don't share a Word document with anyone until you've scrubbed the file. This app will pull out all the personal information you may not want others to see.
170. Evernote
Windows | Mac | Web | Mobile
Evernote lets you capture anything you see on your screen, save it to the app, and automatically sync it with online and mobile versions. You can save notes everywhere, access anywhere, and make them as public or private as you want.
171. FocusWriter
Windows | Mac | Linux
Distraction-free writing tools are in vogue, but some hide too much. FocusWriter keeps things you need (like tabs and tools) when you take the focus off the keyboard, but hides them again when the writing starts. 



Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tech, telecom giants take sides as FCC proposes large public WiFi networks

Christian Hartmann/Reuters - The wireless industry is against such available service. Google and Microsoft say it would spark innovation.

The proposal would require local television stations and other broadcasters to sell a chunk of airwaves to the government that would be used for the public WiFi networks. It is not clear whether these companies would be willing to do so. The FCC’s plan is part of a broader strategy to repurpose entire swaths of the nation’s airwaves to accomplish a number of goals, including bolstering cellular networks and creating a dedicated channel for emergency responders. Some Republican lawmakers have criticized Genachowski for his idea of creating free WiFi networks, noting that an auction of the airwaves would raise billions for the U.S. Treasury. That sentiment echoes arguments made by companies such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Intel and Qualcomm, in a letter to the FCC staff late last month, that the government should focus its attention on selling the airwaves to businesses. Some of these companies also cautioned that a free WiFi service could interfere with existing cellular networks and television broadcasts. READ MORE

Facts are facts: by breaking the wireless provider monopoly on wireless access, we have a chance to expand Internet use to the poor, bolster innovation and help create a more vibrant online community. Sign your support for the FCC plan now!
Sign the Petition!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Are Liberals Really Brighter Or Do Republicans Play Dumb On Purpose?

by Gareth Dimelow
7 February 2012 12 Comments

New research has suggested that liberals are more intelligent than conservatives, but Bush, Romney and co are far more wily than they appear...

As anyone who’s ever watched A Few Good Men, The Social Network or The West Wing can attest, Aaron Sorkin knows his way around a barnstorming speech. One of the best examples of this came in a live televised debate during the final season of his presidential drama, between Democratic Congressman Matt Santos and Republican Senator Arnold Vinick.

After reeling off an extensive list of liberal accomplishments, Santos (played by Jimmy Smits) declared: “…when you try to hurl the word ‘liberal’ at my feet, as if it were dirty, something to run away from, something that I should be ashamed of, it won’t work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and wear it as a badge of honour.”

Now, it turns out that liberals can wear more than just the label with pride. They can also take comfort in the fact that they’re smarter than their political opponents, according to a new study by Canadian psychologists. In a paper published by Psychological Science, the researchers have determined that right-wingers tend to be less intelligent than their liberal counterparts. Finding that people with low childhood intelligence are more susceptible to racist and homophobic rhetoric, the study suggests that conservative politics act as a “gateway” into more extreme prejudices – in much the same way that conservatives believe a couple of joints invariably lead to a belt strap around the bicep.

Having studied the views and opinions of over 15,000 test subjects, the authors have concluded that right-wing rhetoric makes people with a low capacity for reasoning feel safer. The academics responsible for the study report that “Cognitive abilities are critical in forming impressions of other people and in being open minded. Individuals with lower cognitive abilities may gravitate towards more socially conservative right-wing ideologies that maintain the status quo [which] provide a sense of order.”

Nowhere is this more evident than in the increasingly divisive world of American politics, where liberalism has been successfully portrayed as some kind of mental disorder by a political party which has managed to make a virtue out of being incurious. The Simpsons Movie scored a big laugh from ‘President Schwarzenegger’ telling his advisors “I was elected to lead, not to read.” But no-one was chuckling when one-time presidential candidate Herman Cain told supporters in New Hampshire “We need a leader, not a reader.” Just imagine putting the big red button in hands that refuse to turn the pages of a book. READ MORE

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ryan and Ayn Randism mainstreamed

Old Hickory's Weblog

Ryan and Ayn Randism mainstreamed

Tristero rightly observed when Romney announced Paul Ryanas his Vice Presidential pick, interpreting advice he once got from Dave Neiwert ("Two Distinct Ideologies?" Are You Kidding? Hulabaloo 08/11/2012):

The problem is that elevating extremism to the level of serious discussion tends to confer enormous status on bad ideas and that makes it more difficult to fight against them. It also tends to move the discourse towards treating the bad ideas as reasonable ones - the Overton Window concept, more or less.
The standard conventional wisdom about the 1964 election was that the Republican Party embraced radicalism with the Barry Goldwater nomination, and since then they've stayed away from it, having learned their lesson.

Now that the mainstream press operates so reliably with "scripts" cooked up in the Washington Beltway, they continue to recite the notion that the Republican Party is composed of reasonable conservatives. And so they largely ignore the most defining feature of mainstream politics, the cycle of radicalization in which the Republican Party is caught. With no end in sight.

Paul Krugman in Romney/Ryan: The Real Target describes how that feature works in the Ryan case:

Like Bush in 2000, Ryan has a completely undeserved reputation in the media as a bluff, honest guy, in Ryan's case supplemented by a reputation as a serious policy wonk. None of this has any basis in reality; Ryan’s much-touted plan, far from being a real solution, relies crucially on stuff that is just pulled out of thin air — huge revenue increases from closing unspecified loopholes, huge spending cuts achieved in ways not mentioned. ...

So whence comes the Ryan reputation? As I said in my last post, it’s because many commentators want to tell a story about US politics that makes them feel and look good — a story in which both parties are equally at fault in our national stalemate, and in which said commentators stand above the fray. This story requires that there be good, honest, technically savvy conservative politicians, so that you can point to these politicians and say how much you admire them, even if you disagree with some of their ideas; after all, unless you lavish praise on some conservatives, you don’t come across as nobly even-handed.

The trouble, of course, is that it's really really hard to find any actual conservative politicians who deserve that praise. [my emphasis]
Even-the-liberal Kevin Drum at Mother Jones plays this game in Programming Note: Ryan 2013 Is Not Ryan 2012 08/17/2012, scolding liberals for not, uh, pretending Ryan's plan to end Medicare isn't completely sensible, someway somehow. KJ does make some good observations sometime. But ever since he played this liberal troll game in the lead-up to the Iraq War, this stuff coming from him has really annoyed me. Even a catastrophe like the Iraq War didn't persuade him to clean up his act. Basically, he tries to pretend that Ryan is the "bluff, honest guy" of Beltway scripting that Krugman analyzes so well.

Here is the eminently respectable PBS Newshour bringing us Sleepy Mark Shields and National Reviewer Rich Lowry talking about Paul Ryan, Shields and Lowry on GOP Veep Choice Paul Ryan, Medicare 08/17/2012 (with transcript): READ MORE


Money, Power and Wall Street

Episode one of Money, Power and Wall Street, FRONTLINE’s four-hour investigation into the global financial crisis, received a Writers Guild Award in the Documentary – Current Events category last night. Produced by Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria, the episode explored how the the rapid rise of credit default swaps, originally designed to stabilize the economic system, brought the global economy to its knees.
Today it also was announced that the full four-hour series produced by Martin Smith, Marcela Gaviria, Michael Kirk, Jim Gilmore and Mike Wiser will receive the George Polk Awardfor Documentary Television Reporting in April. From the award citation:
It provided a thorough examination of the epic global financial crisis, from its origins to the present day. The team drew on more than 140 in-depth interviews, conducted around the world, with people tangentially or directly responsible for the crisis. In blunt, first-hand accounts, viewers were given an unprecedented look inside key decisions that affected the lives of ordinary people around the country and a play-by-play road map of what ultimately would shatter the global economy. The series also dissected and distilled down the complicated subject of the modern credit derivative market and provided a sober look inside the struggle to rescue and repair this country’s battered economy.
You can watch all four hours of the series on our website, and also watch, read and sharedozens of in-depth interviews that provide first-hand testimony inside the financial crisis and its aftermath.





Sorry folks,  I haven't finished watching the whole thing but...  Very early on in this crisis we learned from the real economists who railed against this insanity,  the loans were not going to the people who could not afford them.  Those people were blissfully unaware that they could even qualify for loans,  so they did not apply in any great numbers.  Of course,  bankers and brokers who had knowledge would seek out high risk borrowers,   because they knew they could create and profit from the paper.  But then,  since these people also knew what they were doing,  why would they need a borrower of any type?  So,  the few people who were knowledgeable invented "straw buyers" and "straw sellers",  so that they could control the entire buying and selling process and pocket all of the money,  then simply walk away and let the "straw buyer" default.  Usually these straw buyers were drug dealers,  meth labs,  homeless people and other such people being victimized.

Meanwhile,  the ready credit in an easy money market,  made people who were long time home owners,  familiar with refi strategies,  eager to draw down profits from homes that were appreciating 10% each year.  First time and poor,  high risk home buyers tend to be very conservative about what they buy,  because they're intending to keep the home and not willing to risk losing it.  While long time home owners,  more familiar with finance,  mortgages and loans,  were eager to take advantage of this "easy money",  they knew and could see as increased equity in their homes due to the 10% /year appreciation.  Knowledge became power for them.  A 250k home was appreciating at a rate of 25k per year compounded. so,  3 or 4 years down the road,  the home owner would say hey,  this house is worth 350k why not refinance it and take some of that 100k appreciation?   Why not indeed,  since next year that same house would be worth 35k more and you could sell it and pass the mortgage (which includes the money you've just borrowed) off onto the new buyer.

The economist who first explained the crisis to us also told us that less than 1% of the people getting these subprime loans were people who should not have gotten them,  the rest went to people who knew what they were doing.  The markets locked up with fraud was discovered in the market and that prevented the buyers of CDO from investing any more money.  The banks couldn't sell any more paper,  thus they could not raise any more money to make any new loans.  Just use the search box up at page top and plug in "29 trillion",  have a nice read. 

World War II nuclear waste found leaking from tanks

Workers says they’re unsure how long or how much has leaked

Gov: 6 underground Hanford nuclear tanks leaking
FILE -- In this March 23, 2004 file photo, workers at the tank farms on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Wash., measure for radiation and the presence of toxic vapors. Six underground radioactive waste tanks at the nation's most contaminated nuclear site are leaking, Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. Inslee made the announcement after meeting with federal officials in Washington, D.C. Last week it was revealed that one of the 177 tanks at south-central Washington's Hanford Nuclear Reservation was leaking liquids. Inslee called the latest news "disturbing." (AP Photo/Jackie Johnston, File)


Gov: 6 underground Hanford nuclear tanks leaking photo
FILE - In this July 14, 2010 photo, workers at the Hanford nuclear reservation work around a a tank farm where highly radioactive waste is stored underground near Richland, Wash. Six underground radioactive waste tanks at the nation's most contaminated nuclear site are leaking, Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. Inslee made the announcement after meeting with federal officials in Washington, D.C. Last week it was revealed that one of the 177 tanks at south-central Washington's Hanford Nuclear Reservation was leaking liquids. Inslee called the latest news "disturbing." (AP Photo/Shannon Dininny, File)
Some of the waste dates all the way back to the bomb created for and used on Nagasaki during World War II. The site as closed in 1987 but the waste has remained since that time.
Workers say there are six tanks leaking and they are not sure how long the problem has been going on or much has escaped.
The site is in the state of Washington, about 185 miles from Seattle according to reports. See more on this story here.