July 2015 Archives


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The OPM hacks represent the hyper-personalization of war, writes Lauren C. Williams at ThinkProgress:

Heads have started to roll after the director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) resigned Friday, but the aftermath of the agency's massive data breach are far from over. The breach was one of two OPM experienced since 2014 -- one involved the loss of over 4 million Social Security Numbers, and the other exposed 21.5 million government background check records used for security clearances. Both breaches have been linked to the Chinese government.

China has held onto the seized employee data for a year, and there is no evidence the stolen data has been used. Information from typical breaches involving private companies, such as social media or retail sites, are used for phishing scams or financial gain. However, the agency's breach points more toward political leverage than identity theft for profit.

Cybersecurity legal consultant Paul Rosenzweig, who "holds a top secret security clearance and was personally affected by breach," comments that "It's everything:"

Everywhere I've lived for the last 10 years, where I went to school, every job I ever had, my 10 closest friends and coworkers -- supervisor included -- and their information. It's an in-depth biographical. If they actually lost my fingerprints, there goes my ability to be bio-metrically secure," he said, alluding to the iPhone's fingerprint-scanning Touch ID feature. [...]

For the 7 percent of the U.S. population caught in the OPM breach, he said, the effects are akin to "voluntarily giving up" everything the National Security Agency (NSA) wants to know.

Disturbingly, the piece notes that "The true extent of the OPM breach and its ramifications are still unknown, and hard to quantify."

It's not news that conservatives often misinterpret Adam Smith, but Hrafnkell Haraldsson's look at Adam Smith, Rush Limbaugh, and Pope Francis quotes Limbaugh's comment about Pope Francis making "another one of his anti-capitalism remarks." Limbaugh went on to insist that, additionally, "Obama is not a capitalist:"

This country's economy is not slowed down because of capitalism. The closest we've had to the capitalism that the Pope and these clowns are talking about is the Reagan years and looked what happened. Look at the economic boom that last practically 20 years!

Haraldsson continues the thread from a more accurate standpoint:

This would be the same Reagan who raised taxes 11 times and grew the size of government and increased military spending while cutting non-defense discretionary spending, the same Reagan who tripled the federal budget deficit. For all Limbaugh's blustering, Obama is more of a fiscal conservative than his hero Reagan. [...]

Republicans who have no problem ignoring what Jesus actually said, have no problem ignoring the fact that before The Wealth of Nations, Smith wrote, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), in which he stressed the natural compassion and empathy of human beings for one another... [...]

Smith was writing on the cusp of the Industrial Age, before all its evils became apparent, but there was enough evil even then for him to write in The Theory of Moral Sentiments that of the "disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition."

"A reading of Adam Smith shows who is the real clown here," summarizes Haraldsson, "and it is not the Pope, or President Obama, but Rush Limbaugh himself."

Elias Isquith demolishes the flat lie of neo-Confederate flag veneration, reminding us that "on Friday morning, something truly amazing happened:"

South Carolina, the birthplace of the Civil War and Southern rebellion, finally removed the Confederate battle flag from its capitol grounds. It did so in broad daylight, with the full backing of its conservative governor as well as the clear majority of its legislature, itself also quite conservative.

It appears that the Confederate battle flag, which lingered in the American mainstream for decades, is finally beginning to be widely understood for what it really is.

Isquith talks to historian James Loewen, and observes that "I think now the neo-Confederate position is coming down like the house of cards it always was:"

It was always based on a flat lie, the claim that the South had seceded for states' rights, and not for slavery. In truth, every single document of secession shows that the South seceded for slavery, and against states' rights.


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Economics professor/author Bill Black (author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One) digs into
LIBOR, history's largest financial crime which involved "manipulating the prices of an estimated $300+ trillion in assets:"

I read a BBC story about the LIBOR criminal trial in the UK and was going to write to criticize its woeful analytics. In preparation I checked the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to see how they reported the devastating testimony in the trial. I could not, however, find any coverage in my electronic searches and viewing their web pages.

He reviews court statements, and notes that "the people involved sound exactly like what they are - blatant, privileged crooks."

Dissent's Timothy Shenk writes that "Americans revere the Declaration of Independence, but most of us don't read it:"

The iconic opening has been dulled by repetition, and it's followed by a lengthy recitation of forgotten crimes George III allegedly visited upon the colonists. Danielle Allen resurrects the document's power in her latest book [Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality], turning a historical relic into a philosophical inquiry with profound relevance for how we understand liberty and equality today--along with the country whose founding document commits it to ideals that still remain out of reach.

Here's a passage from the interview:

Shenk: As anyone who has paid cursory attention to American politics in the last year knows, inequality is back on the agenda. Just last month, a New York Times/CBS News Poll found that two thirds of Americans believed wealth "should be more evenly distributed among more people." But in these discussions, "inequality" is often conflated with "economic inequality." Both in this book and in some of your other writing, you're concerned with a broader interpretation of inequality. What do we miss when we view "economic inequality" as identical with inequality itself?

Allen: First, I take the existence of meaningful opportunities to participate in politics to be a fundamental human right. Protecting this right requires focusing on political equality as such. Thinkers who focus exclusively on economic inequality are sometimes willing to sacrifice that participatory right in favor of material distributions. Second, I take it that ensuring that meaningful political participation is as broad and egalitarian as possible will in itself be a force for ensuring that political institutions are more likely to direct economic policy in egalitarian directions.

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