Saturday, October 31, 2015

technically and infrastructurally easy to fix, politically - next to impossible...,

WaPo |  To begin, a conclusion: The Internet, whatever its many virtues, is also a weapon of mass destruction.

We have been distracted from focusing on that potential by a succession of high-profile cyberattacks, including China vacuuming up more than 22 million federal employee records, North Korea’s humiliating shot across the bow of Sony Pictures Entertainment and a barrage of cyberlarceny directed at U.S. banks and businesses, much of which has originated in Russia and Ukraine. Each of these targets was protected by firewalls and other defenses. But the Internet is inherently vulnerable. It was never intended to keep intruders out. It was designed to facilitate the unimpeded exchange of information, giving attackers a built-in advantage over defenders. If that constitutes an ongoing threat to commerce (and it does), it also represents a potentially catastrophic threat to our national security — and not just in the area of intelligence-gathering. The United States’ physical infrastructure is vulnerable. Our electric power grids, in particular, are highly susceptible to cyberattacks, the consequences of which would be both devastating and long-lasting.

Deregulation of the electric power industry has resulted in a network of more than 3,000 companies, some of which are well protected, many of which are not, but all of which are interconnected. Hacking into the most vulnerable could lead to a domino-like penetration of even the most secure companies. The automated programs (known as supervisory control and data acquisition systems) that control the supply and demand of electricity nationwide are, for the most part, standardized and therefore highly accessible. Multiple sources in the intelligence community and the military tell me that Russia and China have already embedded cyber-capabilities within our electrical systems that would enable them to take down all or large parts of a grid. Iran’s capabilities are believed to be close behind. North Korea is working toward such a goal. George Cotter, a former chief scientist at the National Security Agency, told me that he fears groups such as the Islamic State may soon be able to hire capable experts and assemble the necessary equipment, which is available on the open market.

EU narrowly rejects predatory militarist digital proctology

HuffPo |  In June of this year, the White House rejected the idea of dropping charges filed against Snowden under the Espionage Act. The former CIA contractor fled the U.S. in 2013 and resides in Moscow.

“The fact is that Mr Snowden committed very serious crimes, and the U.S. government and the Department of Justice believe that he should face them,” Obama administration spokesman Josh Earnest told the Guardian at the time. “That’s why we believe that Mr Snowden should return to the United States, where he will face due process and have the opportunity to make that case in a court of law.”

Snowden faces the possibility of extradition to the U.S. should he enter any of the EU’s 28 member countries. At the time of his departure, Snowden applied for -- and was denied -- asylum in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain. The FBI pursued him relentlessly, even notifying Scandinavian countries in advance of their intent to extradite him should he leave Moscow via a connecting flight through any of their countries.

The new EU proposition specifically asks countries to "drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender." 

Snowden called the vote a "game-changer" on Twitter, adding, "This is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is a chance to move forward."

buy high, sell low - the definition of stupid

oilprice |  That’s what Congress is considering as it eyes selling oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to pay for certain projects in its latest spending plan.

The last time the U.S. bought oil for the SPR in 2000 through 2005, oil prices were rising (Figure 1). Now Congress wants to sell oil when prices are the lowest in a decade and continuing to fall.

Friday, October 30, 2015

meanwhile, quietly watching at the other end of your holomorphically encrypted butt plug android...,

bloomberg |  When Google-parent Alphabet Inc. reported eye-popping earnings last week its executives couldn’t stop talking up the company’s investments in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

For any other company that would be a wonky distraction from its core business. At Google, the two are intertwined. Artificial intelligence sits at the extreme end of machine learning, which sees people create software that can learn about the world. Google has been one of the biggest corporate sponsors of AI, and has invested heavily in it for videos, speech, translation and, recently, search.
For the past few months, a “very large fraction” of the millions of queries a second that people type into the company’s search engine have been interpreted by an artificial intelligence system, nicknamed RankBrain, said Greg Corrado, a senior research scientist with the company, outlining for the first time the emerging role of AI in search.
RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to embed vast amounts of written language into mathematical entities -- called vectors -- that the computer can understand. If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries.
Unique Questions
The system helps Mountain View, California-based Google deal with the 15 percent of queries a day it gets which its systems have never seen before, he said. For example, it’s adept at dealing with ambiguous queries, like, “What’s the title of the consumer at the highest level of a food chain?” And RankBrain’s usage of AI means it works differently than the other technologies in the search engine.
“The other signals, they’re all based on discoveries and insights that people in information retrieval have had, but there’s no learning,” Corrado said.
Keeping an edge in search is critical to Google, and making its systems smarter and better able to deal with ambiguous queries is one of the ways it can keep a grip on time-starved users, who are now mostly searching using their mobile devices. “If you say Google people think of search,” Corrado said.

securing the hegemonic aether for you peasants against you peasants others...,

So let's start with fully homomorphic encryption. It's a particular type of encryption scheme, different from what you have seen so far, which lets you encrypt data-- so that is the first arrow pointing from the user to the cloud. She encrypts her data and stores it in the cloud. And then the magic sauce is a procedure that lets the cloud take this encrypted data and do computations on the underlying data. Remember, the cloud doesn't see what's inside, and yet, magically, it can do computations on it. And what it gets at the end of it is the encrypted result of this computation. Once the cloud gets the encrypted result, it sends the encrypted result back to the user. Now the user has the key. She can open the box, decrypt, and what does she learn? She learns the result of the computation. We let the user use the cloud for everything that she wanted to do, except now she also has privacy. So the bottom line of fully homomorphic encryption is that it lets you do anything that you want to do on plain text data you can see, it lets you do on encrypted data which you cannot see. 

What kind of security do I want from homomorphic encryption? The standard notion of security, the golden standard these days in cryptography, is the notion of indistinguishablility of ciphertexts, or semantic security. This was a notion developed by Shafi Goldwasser and Silvio Micali back in the '80s. And what that says is that, number one, encryption has to be probabilistic. In other words, if you encrypt a message twice, you should get completely different ciphertexts. Encryption injects randomness into the process, and the ciphertext looks different every time you encrypt it. Now, what that means is that if you see a stream of ciphertexts passing by, you won't even know if there are any repeats in this ciphertext. It doesn't let you figure that out. This is a very, very strong notion of security. Again, just to be clear, indistinguishability of ciphertexts says that you, as an adversary, can pick two messages. You pick. It's your choice. They have to have the same length, because from the ciphertext, you can tell what the length of the message is. So I'm not trying to hide the length information. So you pick two messages, same length. Send it to me. I, as the challenger for you, will pick a random one of the two messages and encrypt them using this probabilistic encryption, and send it back to you. Your job is to figure out which message I encrypted. If you manage to figure this out, you've won. So I say that an encryption system is secure, semantically secure, or indistinguishably secure, if there is no way that you can win in this game. So that is the notion of security I need from encryption. That is the notion of security that I need from fully homomorphic encryption as well. Now that we know what homomorphic encryption is, and what kind of security notion you want it to satisfy, let's take a step towards trying to see how we can achieve it. 

So what is homomorphic encryption? Again, the new magic sauce is a way to take encryptions of plaintexts-- data-- together with the function that you're interested in computing, and somehow coming up with an encryption of f of this data, the function applied on this data. So before we even start talking about how to do this, we have to figure out, what is this function? How do I represent this function? Is it a C program? Is it a Java program? Is it-- what is it? Is it a hardware circuit? How do we represent these functions? Well, for me today, and in all the literature on homomorphic encryption and, in fact, secure multiparty computation, the standard way to represent functions, computations, is through a circuit. So what's a circuit? You have two types of gates here, addition gates and multiplication gates. Now, I can define this over any field. So if I define it over a field of size 2, these are basically XOR and AND gates. But I could do something more general if I wanted. So how is the circuit defined? You basically put together XOR gates, addition gates, and multiplication gates, or AND gates, in this form of a tree or a graph. And you feed the circuit inputs that comes from the top, and every time the circuit computes either the addition or the multiplication of the bits that are fed into it, and that keeps going. So this is a model of computation, and that is a model I am going to work with. When I say function, I mean a circuit computing the function. 

Now, you might say what happens if I want a computer program or extra data? Turns out that I can convert a program into a circuit, as long as I know its running time. So if you don't have infinite loops in your program, you can undraw the program into a circuit, and that's what I will work with. Now, there is a separate line of research, very interesting work, which deals with how to compute on programs directly without undrawing them and turning them into circuits. Once you've fixed your model of computation, once you have circuits, you think about it, and you realize that if you want to compute a circuit on encrypted inputs-- encrypted bits, here, let's say-- all you have to do is to add encrypted bits and multiply encrypted bits. In other the words, you want an encryption system where given encryption of x1 and encryption of x2, two bits or two numbers, x1 and x2, you should be able to turn it into an encryption of x1 plus x2, as well as an encryption of x1 times x2. If you can do this, you can go through the circuit step by step. Every time you will have an encryption of the wire off the circuit and you will keep going. You will get the encrypted result. That's what we're going to do today.

splendid irony calling the digital catheter android

NYTimes |  For years, Google, now known as Alphabet, has supported two operating systems on two very different tracks: Android and Chrome. But now the company is nodding in the direction of Android.

Google is working toward allowing its low-cost Chromebook computing devices to work on the popular Android operating system. The work will take place over the next year, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Google is not indicating it plans to stop development of Chrome OS, but making Android work on Chromebooks opens the door to one of the few products that Chrome OS, the lesser-known operating system, had to itself.

Chrome OS should not be confused with Google’s popular Chrome web browser.

News of the shift was first reported earlier Thursday by The Wall Street Journal.

The first Android operating system for mobile devices was introduced about seven years ago as a direct competitor to Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. Since then, it has become the most widely used operating system in the world. Its development was led by an executive named Andy Rubin, who went on to lead much of the company’s robotics efforts before leaving Google last year.

android security architecture

It is instructive to look at Android as a case study of mobile phone security for two reasons. First, it's  a much more principled design and approach to security than either the web or desktop application contexts.

Web browsers have evolved incrementally over many years to incorporate more and more security checks without as clean a story for how security should work and how isolation should be done. Looking at Android allows us to understand how you go about designing a new clean slate security architecture from scratch if needed. To understand what security problems we have to contend with, let's understand what are the security goals you might have in mind, or what things you might worry about in the context of applications running on a user's mobile phone. Simply stated, we are working with a some data that the user has, as well some resources-- things like the user's camera, GPS
device, microphone, and so on, and, a physical human user.

Then, we have the network interacting with the device. Some considerations for this interaction include ensuring that when two applications interact, they cannot arbitrarily tamper with each other's data, and processes, and execution.  At the same time, we want to allow applications to interact with one another. For example, if you get an email attachment in your email program, you would like to open it up with a text editor, or a PDF viewer, or an image viewer. So we need some sort of protected sharing between applications, but isolation to make sure that they're still secure in the presence of other applications.

Next, we might worry about access between applications and shared data that the user wants to keep private, perhaps, or untampered with on their phone. So we need to make sure that when applications access the data on the user's device, this is somehow mediated and done according to whatever policy the user is OK with. A similar consideration applies to applications accessing the phone's resources.

Now this is not necessarily confidential data that the user has stored on the phone, but it might, nonetheless, be undesirable behavior from the phone user perspective. For example, if the phones turn on the GPS device and start tracking the user, or running the device out of battery, or these might cost the user money if the application starts sending SMS messages, or using a lot of data on the user's mobile phone plan. These are some of the considerations that go into isolating things within the phone. There are of course other sets of considerations that you have to worry about when dealing with the outside world-- outside of the phone, but that's Sith bidnis and not for slovenly peasant consideration.

Now in the case of Android, the platform itself has relatively little to say about protecting the interaction between the phone and the network. One of the few exceptions is the application installation update mechanism. Here, the mobile phone platform has to make sure that when your phone downloads a new version of an app, it comes from the right application developer and not from some man in the middle that's injecting a malicious copy of the application into your phone. Now, in the case of actual interactions between applications and the network, such as an application server running somewhere in the Cloud, the Android platform doesn't provide much in terms of primitives or mechanisms to help applications secure that interaction. The peasants applications are on their own in terms of protecting these communication.

The final interaction we might want to consider in terms of security on a mobile phone is the interaction between the human the user and the phone in their hands. Here, there are two qualitative kinds of problems you might worry about. One, is that someone might steal your phone and try to get at your information at their leisure. The typical defense against this is asking the user, when they're interacting with the phone, to enter some kind of a PIN or a password, to unlock a phone to have the legitimate user be able to identify themselves. There are many techniques you might use here to make sure that this password or PIN is strongly enforced, such as disk encryption of all the contents on the phone itself.

We can talk about doing disk encryption as a separate matter.

The final consideration of interactions between the user and the phone comes from protecting the phone's proprietary internal states from a potentially curious or malicious user. This shows up in the case of DRM, or digital rights management, concerns, or paid applications. So, for example, if a user buys some application in the Android Play Store or in Apple's equivalent app store, the phone platform might want to make sure the user can't take the phone apart and get the application out and give it to all of their friends for free. This is really more Sith bidnis and outside the scope of what you peasants need concern yourself with your beloved little digital cather units.

We will focus exclusively on the interactions that take place within the phone-- so isolating applications from each other, controlling how our applications can get at the data, and the different resources. other aspects of the Android security problem will be addressed as these come to mind over time. Next time, we camy consider and briefly explore the threat model in which your digital catheter is embedded. Careful, in-depth consideration of this topic is bound to disclose a very great deal concerning our assumptions about the world.  In the world as we know it, your imagination could well run wild with possibilities over which you really shouldn't ever worry your pointy little peasant head...., (^;

Thursday, October 29, 2015

why is god so interested in bad behavior?

aeon |  Of all humanity’s eccentricities, religion could very well be the most baffling. Even though no one has produced a fleck of evidence for the existence of the gods, people will engage in repetitive, often taxing behaviours, under the impression that some ethereal being out there knows and cares. And regardless of whether or not they believe, many thoughtful people have burned considerable numbers of calories trying to unravel the mystery that is God’s mind and the implications it has for, quite literally, everything.

The anthropologist Pascal Boyer of Washington University in St Louis has observed that people primarily fixate on what gods know and care about. Those following the Abrahamic traditions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – focus on God’s mind. They rationalise their behaviour whenever they claim that God wants them to do something. They invoke God to influence others, as in: ‘God sees through your cheap tricks.’ From Moses on Sinai to ecstatic, modern-day Evangelicals, many claim to have gone directly to The Man Himself for a chat, even reporting their conversations in bestselling books.
Ask a random stranger what God knows, and chances are he’ll say: ‘Everything.’ But ask what God cares about, and he’ll say murder, theft and deceit; generosity, kindness and love. Amid God’s infinite knowledge, His concerns are quite narrow: He knows everything but cares only about the moral stuff. Where do these beliefs come from, and what impacts do they have on our lives?

Across cultures, even children seem to think that gods know more than normal humans. This is borne out by experiments using what psychologists call the ‘false-belief task’, which tests whether individuals can detect that others have false beliefs. In one version of the test, researchers put a bag of rocks into a box of crackers, showed children what’s inside, and then asked what various entities would think was in the box. If the children said: ‘Mom thinks rocks are in there’, then they haven’t passed the false-belief task. If they said: ‘Mom thinks crackers are in there, but there are really rocks’, they have a handle on the incorrect mental states of others.

What’s curious is that, with age, children come to know that Mom, dogs, and even trees will have incorrect thoughts, but they never extend that vulnerability to God. In fact, the quality of omniscience attributed to God appears to extend to any disembodied entity. In a 2013 paper in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, Louisville Seminary researchers found that children think imaginary friends know more than flesh-and-blood humans. There appears to be a rule, then, deep in our mental programming that tells us: minds without bodies know more than those with bodies.

the android security model is most impressive...,

marketplace |  Try to pay for something at your local store of choice and you might notice a few changes up at the register. Namely those kiosks where you’re used to paying with a swipe credit card. 

There's a good chance some of those stations are ready to accept the new chip and PIN tech.

But there's also a chance that there's a logo from Apple, Google and other tech giants letting you know you can pay up with an app on your phone. And now, add Chase Bank to the mobile payments game.  

Molly Wood, senior Marketplace tech correspondent, spoke with Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal about what the biggest bank in the U.S. has planned for the checkout line.

On how Chase is different:
They are not the first ones, but arguably they are the biggest. Chase is huge. One of every two households, according to Chase, is a Chase customer. [It is] the No. 1 processor in terms of payments overall. So what they are going to do differently, I think, is double down on reach. Chase is partnering up with Wal-Mart and some other big retailers. Now, that said, even though they have the size and the power, they’re going all-in on confusing. The digital wallet that they’re building sounds a little bit funky. There will be a Chase app. You could use that to pay by showing a code to a cashier that they can scan — but not in every store. Some stores will require you to use a different app that is being built by this consortium of retailers. So it’s a little messy right now.
On why companies are climbing into mobile payments when so few people uses it:
In fact, I think it’s only about 4 percent of consumers. It’s something like 13 percent have ever actually tried it. It’s very tiny. But it has the potential to be hugely profitable for whatever company wins…. There’s a potential for this to become a multibillion dollar business, even in the next couple years.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

kunstler indicts banksters, feces-flingers in his comments indict others....,

kunstler |  Mr. Bernanke now says he “regrets” that nobody went to jail. That’s interesting. More to the point perhaps he might explain why the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission did not make any criminal referrals to the US Attorney General in such cases as, for instance, Goldman Sachs (and others) peddling bonds deliberately constructed to fail, on which they had placed bets favoring that very failure.

There were a great many such cases, explicated in full by people and organizations outside the regulating community. For instance, the Pro Publica news organization did enough investigative reporting on the racket of collateralized debt obligations to send many banking executives to jail. But the authorities turned a blind eye to it, and to the reporting of others, mostly on the web, since the legacy news media just didn’t want to press too hard.

In effect, the rule of law was replaced with a patch of official accounting fraud, starting with the April 2009 move by the Financial Accounting Standards Board involving their Rule 157, which had required banks to report the verifiable mark-to-market value of the collateral they held. It was essentially nullified, allowing the banks to value their collateral at whatever they felt like saying.

Accounting fraud remains at the heart of the fix instituted by Ben Bernanke and the ploy has been copied by authorities throughout the global financial system, including the central banks of China, Japan, and the European Community. That it seemed to work for the past seven years in propping up global finance has given too many people the dangerous conviction that reality is optional in economic relations. The recovery of equity markets from the disturbances of August has apparently convinced the market players that stocks are invincible. Complacency reigns at epic levels. Few are ready for what is coming.

china warns u.s. of south china sea eventualities...,

xinhua |  The Chinese navy has warned that further forays by the U.S. naval vessel into the waters claimed by China in the South China Sea may "trigger eventualities."

Chinese navy spokesperson Liang Yang made the comment following a U.S. warship's entering waters near the Nansha Islands on Tuesday.

The Chinese navy monitored, tracked and issued warnings to the USS Lassen, according to Liang, who said China's reaction is necessary, legitimate and professional.

"China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters is irrefutable," he said. "The Chinese navy will resolutely perform duties and missions to unswervingly safeguard national sovereignty, maritime rights and interests, and peace and stability in the South China Sea."

The spokesperson said the navy will closely monitor the situation in and above the sea for goings-on that may jeopardize China's national security.

deuterostems want fairness, not equality...,

theatlantic |  Can Frankfurt really be right that people don’t value economic equality for its own sake? Many scholars believe otherwise. The primatologist Frans de Waal sums up a popular view when he writes: “Robin Hood had it right. Humanity’s deepest wish is to spread the wealth.”

In support of de Waal, researchers have found that if you ask children to distribute items to strangers, they are strongly biased towards equal divisions, even in extreme situations. The psychologists Alex Shaw and Kristina Olson told children between the ages of six and eight about two boys, Dan and Mark, who had cleaned up their room and were to be rewarded with erasers—but there were five of them, so an even split was impossible. Children overwhelmingly reported that the experimenter should throw away the fifth eraser rather than establish an unequal division. They did so even if they could have given the eraser to Dan or Mark without the other one knowing, so they couldn’t have been worrying about eliciting anger or envy.

It might seem as though these responses reflect a burning desire for equality, but more likely they reflect a wish for fairness. It is only because Dan and Mark did the same work that they should get the same reward. And so when Shaw and Olson told the children “Dan did more work than Mark,” they were quite comfortable giving three to Dan and two to Mark. In other words, they were fine with inequality, so long as it was fair.

In research I’ve been involved with at Yale, led by then-graduate student Mark Sheskin, we find that younger children actually have an anti-equality bias—they prefer distributions where they get a relative advantage over equal distributions where everyone gets the same. For instance, children prefer one for them and zero for another child over an arrangement where everyone gets two.

This finding meshes well with what other psychologists have found—and which many parents have observed: When treats are being distributed, children will complain bitterly if they get less, but are entirely mellow if they get more. Other primates behave similarly. Monkeys enjoy cucumbers and will normally be happy getting one, but if they are handed one after having just seen another monkey getting a grape—which monkeys love—they freak out. The monkey with the grape, on the other hand, is perfectly comfortable with its relative advantage.

no grain, now no oil? you can print more money, but you can't print more oil....,

marketwatch |  Even though the world is awash in cheap petroleum, Washington thinks the time is ripe again to sell part of the nation’s emergency oil reserves to help cut the U.S. deficit.

As part of an emerging budget deal, the Republican Congress and Democratic White House plan to sell up to 58 million barrels of oil from the so-called Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The reserve was created in 1975 in the aftermath of the OPEC oil embargo to protect the U.S. from another oil shock.
The sale would be spread out from 2018 to 2025 and raise more than $3 billion, based on current forecasts of future petroleum prices. Another $2 billion in oil could also be sold to modernize SPR facilities.

It’s not the first time Washington has resorted to oil sales to make its budget numbers work. A Republican Congress and a Democratic White House did the same thing in 1996, selling 23 million barrels to help balance the U.S. budget. Prices ranged from $18 to $26 a barrel back then.
Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner must remember. He was part of the Republican leadership during the 1996 budget talks as well.

Hey, every little bit counts. Although the nation’s deficit fell in fiscal 2015 to the lowest level in eight years, it still totaled a whopping $439 billion.

Some lawmakers have been itching to sell oil from the nation’s stockpile reserve, though for other reasons. A bill circulating in the Senate sought the sale of 100 million barrels of oil to beef up the depleted Highway Trust Fund, a moneypot used each year to maintain the nation’s main roadways.
Not everyone is smitten with the idea.

“The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is not an ATM,” Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said earlier this year after colleagues pushed for oil sales. “It is certainly not the petty cash drawer for Congress.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

why you didn't see it coming...,

nautilus |  Media may already be helping us understand the economic scale changes happening in this country. The surprising success of Bernie Sanders has been propelled by online discussions of income inequality. Michael Konczal, a fellow with the Roosevelt Institute, points out that between 1980 and 2006, gross domestic product increased fivefold, while financial sector profits increased sixteenfold. Between 1984 and 2014, the increases have been fourfold and tenfold, respectively. At this rate, we could well be in for a black hole-sized phase change.

Even billionaires know something qualitatively new is going on here—something so different that the old rules don’t apply. “I’m scared,” wrote Peter Georgescu, chairman of advertising giant Young and Rubicam, in The New York Times recently, speaking of the income gap. “We risk losing the capitalist engine that brought us great economic success.” His billionaire friends are scared too, he said. They know what we’re seeing is not just more of the same.

Could a tipping point exist where a concentrated quantity of power and money really change society? Even individual behavior? The evidence is mounting. One sociological study showed that drivers of more expensive cars are less likely to stop for pedestrians than drivers of less expensive cars. Nobel laureate in economics Daniel Kahneman points to studies suggesting that “living in a culture that surrounds us with reminders of money may shape our behavior and our attitudes in ways that we do not know about and of which we may not be proud.”

have the rush card peasants learned their lesson yet?

dailyimpact |  For a couple of years now the Masters of the Universe have been massing their armored laptops on the borders of insanity to conduct a blitzkrieg against physical cash, to wipe every vestige of paper money and coinage from the face of the earth. Mutterings about the offensive began, as far as I know, six months or so ago on the financial-conspiracy and -contrarian websites. And now Lo! and Behold! the Plastic Curtain is on the verge of falling over two whole countries, Sweden and Denmark. And the softening-up process, the preliminary bombardments of explosive factoids,  and the eruption of fifth columns, is well under way around the world.

Large banks such as J.P. Morgan Chase have told their customers they may not keep cash is deposit boxes (can’t wait to see how they’re going to enforce that). Public transportation companies in London, Sweden and Denmark will not accept cash, only cards activated by computer or cell phone (things that poor people, who disproportionately rely on public transportation, disproportionately lack). The amount of cash that we can withdraw without invoking scrutiny from the Authorities, legally $10,000, is steadily being ratcheted downward.   

A brief, unauthorized biography of money will show us that we should have seen the War on Cash coming.

Monday, October 26, 2015

the real trouble begins when rising inequality splinters elites

charleshughsmith | History supports two narratives of rising inequality leading to social disintegration and political instability: one is inequality between the top classes and everyone else, and the the other is rising inequality within the top classes.
When the pie starts shrinking and there aren't enough slices to satisfy the rising expectations of the top class, the elites splinter in profound political disunity. In other words, when the offspring of the top 10% earn MBAs from respected universities and can only find internships, their parents become extremely dissatisfied with the status quo.
Josh and Maddie living at home or being subsidized by Mom and Dad was not part of the expected payoff for reaching the top tier of American society. Toss in a stock market crash or two, a medical emergency with co-pays larger than the GDP of small nations and a slump in business/fees/bonuses, and what people who expected to live comfortably on Easy Street are experiencing is downward mobility.
Many in the bottom 90% are also experiencing downward mobility, but their expectations tend to be less elevated than the professional/technocrat class.
Studies have found that our sense of wealth is less a matter of the actual dollar amount and more a matter of how we measure up to our peers. If our entire class is experiencing stagnating income, we're less likely to feel a sense of social inequity.
But if others in our class are still rising while we're stagnating, we sense a great disturbance in the financial and political Force. If our neighbor's kids are landing partnerships (due to superior connections, of course) while Josh and Maddie struggle to escape Intern-Hell, we sense a huge gulf opening that isn't necessarily reflected in income/wealth statistics.

one patient labeled important renders other patients less important by default

NYTimes |  WHEN I saw my first red blanket as a young medical student, I thought little of it.
One morning, as I rushed around a hospital in California on my daily rounds, I spotted an old man who lay in bed beneath a scarlet cover, a sharp contrast to the white linens wrapped around the other patients. He looked unremarkable, and I assumed he brought the blanket from home. So I moved on. He wasn’t my patient, anyway.

That afternoon, I overheard a discussion about the patient between two physicians. Instead of identifying him in the usual manner — age, gender, medical problems — one of the doctors said, “This is a red blanket patient.”

The significance became clear after I took care of my own red blanket patients: It was a marker of status. At that hospital, patient relations gave them to some C.E.O.s, celebrities and trustees’ friends. Although we weren’t instructed on how to treat the V.I.P. patients, the blanket spoke for itself: “This patient is important.”

Today, I work at a hospital in Massachusetts that gives the same white blankets to everyone. Yet I continue to see red blanket patients. Here, they are called “pavilion patients” because they pay extra to stay in private hotel-like rooms on the top floor, which come with gourmet food, plush bath robes and small business centers.

Whether red blankets or luxury suites, elite services exist in various forms at hospitals around the country, and are nearly universal at the most prestigious medical centers. Of the nation’s top 15 hospitals, ranked by U.S. News and World Report, at least 10 offer luxury treatment options.

Some physicians suggest that V.I.P. services are a harmless way to raise money. Wealthy patients can afford to pay over $1,000 a night for deluxe rooms. More important, if V.I.P.s have good experiences, they might make big donations. At some cancer centers, doctors are even trained to solicit donations themselves. It makes sense. With more money, the hospital can improve its overall service. It’s trickle down health care.

But are red blankets really harmless?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

hizzoner rahm objected to the truthtelling of Chi-Raq...,

rsn | In his first in-depth interview for his upcoming film, the outspoken director discusses Chicago and how the mayor tried—and failed—to “bully” him. An encounter with Spike Lee can be a fraught proposition—he can be aggressively in-your-face or monosyllabically dismissive. So when the director, wearing blazing-orange Air Jordans and a black beret with “Chi-Raq” stitched across it, shows up in the lobby of the W Chicago in Streeterville giving half a handshake and pointing toward the hotel’s restaurant with barely a word, it doesn’t bode well for our conversation. But from the moment he sits down, Lee, 58, seems fired up to talk about his new movie, which is slated for release by Amazon this December and, as most people surely know by now, tackles the violence plaguing Chicago. “Chi-Raq!” he says, rubbing his hands together. “Let’s go. I’m ready. Let’s get into it. Ask away.”

You’d barely announced the film when Mayor Emanuel went ballistic over the title and summoned you to City Hall in April. How did that go? 

[Chuckles and shakes his head.] OK, so that’s where your mayor and I got off on the wrong foot, right away. What I didn’t like was him trying to paint me as this villain. I’m not the bad guy, but that’s how he was trying to portray it. Do I have the guns? Am I the one pulling the trigger? To be honest, he’s a bully.

So how did you handle it? 

You know I’m from Brooklyn, so …

You don’t get bullied?
He’s not gonna bully me. My tactic with the mayor—any bully—is to come out swinging. I said, “Mayor, Your Honor, you’re gonna be on the wrong side of history.” 

What was the mayor’s gripe?
That it’s gonna give Chicago a bad image. We started shooting Chi-Raq June 1. We finished July 9. During that time, 331 people got wounded, 65 murdered. New York City has three times the population of Chicago; Chicago has more homicides than New York City. Last week, The Daily Beast had a front-page story saying that Chicago is the No. 1 city in America for mass murders [actually, for mass shootings, defined as three or more people shot in a single incident]. Chicago is the poster boy [for violence]. I’m not making this stuff up. So what’s there to argue then?

His whole thing was, the title is going to hurt tourism, the title is going to hurt economic development. But what tourism is he talking about? While we were shooting the film, you had the NFL draft here. Quarter million people in Grant Park. Can’t get a hotel room, can’t get a reservation. I mean, it’s packed. Then the Grateful Dead. Then Lollapalooza. So this part of the city is booming. But there are no bulletproof double-decker buses going through the Wild Hundreds [the gang-infested area from 100th to 130th Streets] or through Terror Town [a two-by-four-block patch of South Shore]. What economic development is going on in the South Side?

The mayor is a well-educated man. He and my wife both went to Sarah Lawrence. So I know he read Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. It is a fact that Chicago is the most segregated big city in America. That’s not Spike Lee saying that. That’s a fact.

Were you surprised by the reaction to the title?
We knew it was a hot button. I didn’t make up [the term] “Chi-Raq.” It came from local Chicago rappers. But the mayor doesn’t want it to go worldwide because it’s on his watch. It reminds me of the reaction to [Lee’s 1989 movie] Do the Right Thing. That film was a litmus test, because when I read reviews and the critics lamented the loss of Sal’s Famous Pizzeria and never talked about the loss of life of Radio Raheem, that showed me they valued white-owned property over human life. I’ve seen the same thing here.

It’s like Father Pfleger [the outspoken priest at St. Sabina Catholic Church in Auburn Gresham] said: “God’s on our side.” This film is righteous. The No. 1 goal of anybody involved in this film—in front of the camera, behind the camera—was to save lives. Everybody involved knew that going in, and knew it even further while we were making the film. Save lives. This film is about more than Chicago. This film is about the America we are living in today.

ridiculous revisionist zionist-supremacist felderkarb accelerates disavowal of the garrison state...,

salon |  The current violence in Israel-Palestine—immediately following the debate about the Iran arms deal, which revealed growing fissures in American support of Israel–has brought the conflict into the foreground of U.S. political discourse. The absence of any serious mention of Israel-Palestine during the first Democratic presidential debate thus speaks volumes. It tells us that even as polls show more and more of the Democratic base shifting its support away from Israel, the leading candidates for the Democratic nomination are reluctant to talk about Israel. It will be interesting to see if they shift their stances at all in the next few months, given the stakes that are emerging. Recent polls have shown that Latinos, a critical constituency, are lending their sympathy to the Palestinians. They join the young, progressives, Blacks, and Asian Americans. This is not only the perception of supporters of Palestinian rights, this point of view is shared by advocates of Israel as well. 

Everything seems in play, and that calls for our attention. Here’s what is unfolding on the American political scene:
To begin with, let’s look at the reactions of the U.S. State Department regarding the escalation of violence in Israel-Palestine. On October 13, Secretary of State John Kerrydeclared “What’s happening is that, unless we get going, a two-state solution could conceivably be stolen from everybody… And there’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years, and now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing.”
Upon being accused of laying the blame for the violence on the building of settlements, the State Department rushed to back off from the October 13 statement:
“State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Kerry had not been ‘trying to affix… blame for the recent violence’ during a Tuesday evening address at Harvard University, when the secretary told his audience that ‘there’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years and there’s an increase in the violence because there’s this frustration that’s growing.’ The two ideas, Kirby suggested, were not meant to be interpreted causally.”
Right. It’s hard to believe anyone bought that spin. What this flip-flop indicates is precisely the fluid state of our political discourse on Israel-Palestine.

things fall apart

economicnoise |  “Things fall apart”is an apt sub-title for historians to apply to the first half of the 21st century. The phrase properly describes the collapse of the domestic and foreign policy of the United States. Further, it also is appropriate to describe the happenings in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

The powers that be have lost control. After almost a century of playing the Wizard of Oz, the curtain is disintegrating. Institutions to ensure control, stability and prosperity are failing. People and markets were not to be trusted and most of these institutions were established to protect against such freedom. Bureaucrats, central planners and big governments were to be the answers for a better world.

The damage of nearly a century of this nonsense is suddenly becoming evident. Things fall apart is characterized by institutions that no longer are trusted or believed in. Few institutions are seen to work and when they do they are increasingly seen as favoring the elites at the expense of the masses. No institution is under greater scrutiny as the cloak of wisdom is being destroyed by the hard facts of reality is that of central banking, the corner piece of socialism even at the height of the Thatcher–Reagan movement back toward markets. The Daily Bell writes about the US Federal Reserve, although other central banks are incurring similar doubts and distrust:

your laws, policies, and conduct caused it, and no post hoc rewritten narrative will change that fact...,

NYTimes |  The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, said on Friday that the additional scrutiny and criticism of police officers in the wake of highly publicized episodes of police brutality may have led to an increase in violent crime in some cities as officers have become less aggressive.

With his remarks, Mr. Comey lent the prestige of the F.B.I., the nation’s most prominent law enforcement agency, to a theory that is far from settled: that the increased attention on the police has made officers less aggressive and emboldened criminals. But he acknowledged that there is so far no data to back up his assertion and that it may be just one of many factors that are contributing to the rise in crime, like cheaper drugs and an increase in criminals who are being released from prison.
“I don’t know whether that explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind that has blown through American law enforcement over the last year,” Mr. Comey said in a speech at the University of Chicago Law School.

Mr. Comey’s remarks caught officials by surprise at the Justice Department, where his views are not shared at the top levels. Holding the police accountable for civil rights violations has been a top priority at the department in recent years, and some senior officials do not believe that scrutiny of police officers has led to an increase in crime. While the department had no immediate comment on Friday, several officials privately fumed at Mr. Comey’s suggestion.

Among the nation’s law enforcement officials, there is sharp disagreement over whether there is any credence to the so-called Ferguson effect, which refers to the protests that erupted in the summer of 2014 in Ferguson, Mo., over a police shooting.

In Oakland, Calif., for example, homicides are on the rise after two years of decline. But shootings are down, and the overall crime rate is about the same, said Oakland’s police chief, Sean Whent. “Our officers are very, very sensitive to the climate right now, but I haven’t seen any evidence to say our officers aren’t doing their jobs,” Chief Whent said.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

fin d'siecle murkinism an embarrassing pathetic spectacle...,

WaPo |  In July, British authorities froze RT’s accounts to comply with the verdicts. Belgium and France also launched proceedings to take similar action against Russian state assets. The United States and other Western governments should follow suit in an organized effort, especially in light of a petition for the United States to do so by Yukos’s former principals. (Khodorkovsky is not a party to the suit.)

RT is the key to Putin’s propaganda effort to discredit the West and obfuscate the truth of Russian actions. It has a global reach through cable and the Internet and claims an audience, likely exaggerated, of 700 million people in 100 countries. It has a large studio in Washington and bureaus throughout the United States and Europe. Russian government financing for RT and similar propaganda outlets, including Sputnik news, is roughly half a billion dollars. 

Seizing Russian Embassy and consulate property in Washington and elsewhere is not an option given the inviolability of diplomatic missions. That leaves few other possibilities for going after Russian properties — and makes RT an inviting target. Even for Russia, with more than $350 billion in hard currency reserves and the most natural-resources wealth of any country in the world, $52 billion is a lot of money, especially in the midst of an economic crisis, low oil prices and the squeeze of continued sanctions against the regime.

the paranoid world of london's super-rich

standard |  Most people come to Mayfair to buy. It could be dinner at Scott’s or a little but rather expensive something from the boutiques on Mount Street. Perhaps it’s a fancy car from Jack Barclay on Berkeley Square. The Bentley Bentayga, the firm’s first 4x4 — bigger than the average starter home and more expensive — is currently the most coveted ride for one per centers. Biggest of all is a new house. The starting price for a pied-à-terre is £5m and the damage quickly rises to £40m.

Heyrick Bond Gunning — yes, that really is his name — visits Mayfair most days, but he does not come to buy. He comes to sell. The imposing 44-year-old, a former Grenadier Guards officer, is one of a new breed of salesmen.

He’s selling building and contents protection, but not the kind you’re used to. As the managing director of security firm Salamanca Risk Management, he sells a guarantee that you and your family will never again be bothered by anyone or anything you don’t want to be bothered by. 

Business is booming because billionaires are a paranoid bunch.

pure individualism vs. pure collectivism a head-fake used by the 1% to keep peasants at each other's throats...,

alt-market |  There are very few legitimate cultural divisions in the world. Most of them are arbitrarily created, not only by political and financial elites, but also by the useful idiots and mindless acolytes infesting the sullied halls of academia.

It is perhaps no mistake that cultural Marxists in the form of "social justice warriors", PC busybodies and feminists tend to create artificial divisions between people and “classes” while attacking and homogenizing very real and natural divisions between individuals based on biological reality and inherent genetic and psychological ability. This is what cultural Marxists do: divide and conquer or homogenize and conquer, whatever the situation happens to call for.

They do this most commonly by designated arbitrary "victim status" to various classes, thus dividing them from each other based on how "oppressed" they supposedly are.  The less statistically prominent a particular group is (less represented in a job field, media, education, population, etc.) in any western society based on their color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, etc., generally the more victim group status is afforded to them by social justice gatekeepers.  Whites and males (straight males) are of course far at the bottom of their list of people who have reason to complain and we are repeatedly targeted by SJW organizations and web mobs as purveyors of some absurd theory called "the patriarchy".

Although cultural marxism does indeed target every individual and harm every individual in the long run, my list of personal solutions outlined in this article will be directed in large part at the categories of people most attacked by the social justice cult today.

I do not write often about PC cultism and social justice because the movement is only a symptom of a greater problem, namely the problem of collectivism. The only true and concrete social (group) division is the division between collectivists and individualists: between those who believe the individual should be subservient to the group mind and those who believe the group is meaningless without the individual mind.

I have already spoken on the root dangers and logical inconsistencies of the social justice cult in articles such as ‘The Twisted Motives Behind Political Correctness' and 'The Future Costs Of Politically Correct Cultism.'

There are many intelligent commentators on the Web who have consistently demolished the PC mob with reason and logic, and I leave that battle to them. In this article I would like to continue my examination but with the goal of presenting some real and tangible solutions. And like most solutions to most problems, it is the individual who is required to draw the line in the sand and change the way he approaches the realm of cultural Marxism. It is not up to groups, organizations or governments.

Friday, October 23, 2015

the vampire enraged by its inability to gaddafi putin...,

Telegraph |  Russia is running out of money. President Vladimir Putin is taking a strategic gamble, depleting the Kremlin's last reserve funds to cover the budget and to pay for an escalating war in Syria at the same time.

The three big rating agencies have all issued alerts over recent days, warning that the country's public finances are deteriorating fast and furiously. There is no prospect of an oil revival as long as Saudi Arabia continues to flood the market. Russia cannot borrow abroad at a viable cost.
Standard & Poor's says the budget deficit will balloon to 4.4pc of GDP this year, including short-falls in local government spending and social security. The government has committed a further $40bn to bailing out the banking system.
Deficits on this scale are manageable for rich economies with deep capital markets. It is another story for Russia in the midst of a commodity slump and a geopolitical showdown with the West. Oil and gas revenues cover half the budget. 

"They can't afford to run deficits at all. By the end of next year there won’t be any money left in the oil reserve fund," said Lubomir Mitov from Unicredit. The finance ministry admits that the funds will be exhausted within sixteen months on current policies. 

Alexei Kudrin, the former finance minister, said the Kremlin has no means of raising large loans to ride out the oil bust. The pool of internal savings is pitifully small. 

Any attempt to raise funds from the banking system would aggravate the credit crunch. He described the latest efforts to squeeze more money out of Russia's energy companies as the "end of the road".
Mr Kudrin resigned in 2011 in protest over Russia's military build-up, fearing that it would test public finances to breaking point. Events are unfolding much as he suggested. 

Russia is pressing ahead with massive rearmament, pushing defence spending towards 5pc of GDP and risking the sort of military overstretch that bankrupted the Soviet Union.

frustrating insertion of the blood funnel, koch guided by a fringe theory of domestic politics and economics

marketplace |  We went to Koch Industries headquarters last week to spend about an hour with co-owner, chairman and CEO Charles Koch. Koch and his brother David, both billionaires, are also known as dedicated right-wing political fundraisers.
Ryssdal: Charles Koch, welcome to the program.
Koch: Thanks, thanks for having me.
Ryssdal: There you are, Boston, Massachusetts, 1961. Couple of graduate degrees from MIT, and you come back to Wichita, Kansas. Why?
Koch: Well my father had, uh ... I was working for a consulting firm back there, which was then one of the leading consulting firms, Arthur D. Little, and I was learning a lot, and it was a great place to be when you're single. All the girls schools there and they had jazz bars. I mean it was terrific. I loved it. Learning a lot, doing consulting for all sorts of big companies -- process development, product development, management services. And so my father starts calling me, urging me to come back to Wichita, and I remember what it was like growing up under him. Like, starting at age six he had me work in virtually all my spare time, and I don't mean doing easy stuff. Like, started out at age six digging dandelions at, you know, 100 degree temperature, and I'm thinking, "Why did my father hate me, and all my friend's fathers love them?" Because they're out swimming, and having a great time, and here I am digging that. And you, because you have to dig down. If you pull them up the roots will stay there, and they come right back.
Ryssdal: That's right.
Koch: So I'm out there digging, and then I soon graduate to bailing hay, shoveling out stalls, milking cows, digging ditches, all this other stuff, and that continued until I started working other places. And -
Ryssdal: So you say he was tough, your old man was?
Koch: So he was tough, yeah. His philosophy was this. He said, "I don't want my sons to be country club bums. So I'm going to make them work." Now, I was a little difficult. I was  independent, kind of a free spirit, so I would try to find ways around this, and years later I ask him, I said, "Pop, why were you so much tougher on me than my younger brothers?" He said, "Son, you plum wore me out. Which I resemble that, but thankfully he stayed with it because he taught me work ethic. And he was tough. Well, and one of his favorite sayings, being Dutch, is, "You can tell the Dutch, but you can't tell 'em much." So he had a strong will, but he also had great integrity, great humility, treated people with dignity and respect, and he had a tremendous thirst for knowledge. And so I absorbed some of that, not probably to his standard, over, over time.

I Didn't Think This Would Happen Until Tomorrow...,

Live Updates: Biden Drops Out of Presidential Race, Endorses Harris President Biden wrote on social media that he was ending his campaign f...