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Our Full Faith in Our Big Corporations

I meant to put this up yesterday, but it was out a week ago. It’s still interesting.

Mat Honan, a writer at Wired, was hacked. The criminals deleted his gmail account, went on to erase his Mac laptop and Apple smartphone and tablet data, and took over his Twitter account, from which they issued racist and anti-gay tweets.

It turned out that it wasn’t really a hacking at all, but a garden variety fraud by impersonation over the telephone. The fraud involved Amazon because they were able to get some data from it to use against Apple. He got the details not by counter hacking, but by tweeting back at them.

Although they had credit card information, they didn’t try to use the cards to buy anything or to wedge even more of Honan’s identity out. The motive of the juveniles (they told him teenagers in their exchanges) was to capture his three-letter Twitter name “MAT”.

Oddly, Honan didn’t seem too put out except for family pictures.

The moral of the story, he said, was to push Apple and Amazon to tighten up their procedures so they can’t be so easily fooled by children.

I’d like to go farther. Apple and Amazon are too of the most successful businesses in the U.S. today, and they huge numbers of customers. These two mega corporations pose as security minded, but they lie to us. They care little and their customers are sitting ducks. We’re just lucky that the criminals are few in number and most of those are just plain dumb.

Honan’s personal account at Wired

August 14, 2012

Bad News for Democracy

The news media is busy trying to augur the strategic effects of Romney’s choice for a running mate. Ryan will energize this or that; he will strengthen these and weaken those.

But in case you merely suspect that all this heat and light doesn’t mean too much read the press release linked below from the Pew Research Center, the polling outfit. The short version is that most of the 1,010 people Pew asked about the Super PACs do not know what they are. They are, of course, the political action committees that can receive unlimited contributions from people and corporations and obfuscate the way the money is spent.

Bear in mind that only people who agree to spend some time answering the questions are tabulated — a fact which biases all polls. It’s also a multiple choice test, so many guesses by people who in fact have no clue can be right. Further, the political nature of the entire polls has to steer at least a few people away from stupid answers — like the 10 respondents (1%) who said that Super PACs were video games for smartphones.

Only 40% got it right; 46% admitted not knowing; 9% thought it was a Congressional committee, and 4% thought it was a hazardous waste cleanup.

The poll is over a week old and was in the papers, but not prominently. The reporters were too busy musing about campaign tactics.

Pew’s press release.

August 12, 2012

The NRA Bags a Big One

You have to remember that Fareed Zakaria’s suspension is not about gun control, the merits of gun control, but about Zakaria in particular and journalism in general.

The NRA can snicker all they want, but one writer’s plagiarism is a poor rationale for defending the insane traffic in deadly weapons because some people are titillated by pretending that they are cartoonish mercenary soldiers.

Actually, on the grand scheme of things, this bit of cutting and pasting is a minor problem endemic to news writing. Journalists flatter themselves when they strut like great writers. The deadlines are too fast. The vast flow of words is beyond imagination.

But the main point. It’s worse to make stuff up and print it as fact, or to regurgitate press releases and tips from secret sources. In many ways it’s far worse to baldly state ludicrous opinions as accepted fact. To wit: presenting the hack politician Paul Ryan as a bold thinker with important ideas. The Washington Post’s version

August 11, 2012

NYT Heaps Praise on Romney for Predatory Lending

A reader hopes the NYT would be savvy enough to guide him through the tangle of Wall Street malfeasance, but today prominently runs a story about what a swell guy Romney was when he was starting his investing career with a housing development that went belly up.

The story played out in the 1990s. The real estate investment stagnated. Our budding billionaire got stuck with unsellable houses, but the future candidate turned one part of the loss into a big gain when he offered to sell one of the houses to an unqualified buyer with a no-money down 12% mortgage. Mortgages rates were higher then than they are now, but not that high.

The new owner and Romney were lucky. He made the payments and still lives there. Most people in that situation don’t — just ask all those politicians who are still wringing their hands over the economic meltdown in 2008. The sophisticated report fails to ask about the rate. I calculated it with the help of a mortgage web site, assuming a 15-year term; the rate would be even higher at 30 years, usury level in my book. The report fails to ask about refinancing or much of anything. Read it and weap.

August 10, 2012

The Diminutive Billionare

Remember him? Ross Perot, two-time presidential candidate. He’s not even in the richest 100 Americans anymore? He’s the guy from Texas before Ron Paul who ran for president in the 1990s on an anti-government platform. His standing (reporters always referred to him as diminutive because he’s short) was built on his brainchild and legacy, the EDS computer services company. His pitch was simple: Voters, he said, you’ve trusted them bureaucrats long enough with running your country, now trust a businessman, a man who knows how to get things done. So his pitch was based on the billions he got from building up EDS — which handled the government’s social service bookkeeping, and no one asked if it was possible the government was screwed up because they hired guys like Ross Perot to do the work for them.

Anyway, EDS got a black eye yesterday when HP, the once mighty computer maker, admitted to Wall Street that it was taken when it bought Perot’s brainchild for $14 billion in 2008. HP declared that it paid more than twice what EDS was worth. One might complain that I’m stretching things. Perot had long, long ago sold EDS to General Motors, so he’s had nothing to do with EDS for a long, long time. I say that you would think these business geniuses build things with a little more life in them, a little more staying power. After all, you don’t want to “write down” half the government as a total failure in a decade or two, do you? Here is the Reuters routine report, written as if Perot didn’t exist.

August 9, 2012

A Dirty Business

Google and Oracle, the two tech giants are fighting it out in court over java patents. Maybe that sounds dull because tech businesses are always fighting over patents and who cares about that boring garbage? But as Reuters said, the case took a “strange twist” when the judge asked both Google and Oracle to give him the names of writers, print or web, hired wage slave or blogger in pajamas, who might have received money or other prizes from the companies.

When I was a kid, we had this idea that sellouts were digusting and that conflicts of interest were probably illegal. Welcome to the real world. Conflicts are common in business. They’re not illegal, and they don’t seem to perturb people. It has to be pretty sleazy to involve the law. Government often makes conflicts illegal (funny about these ethical concerns), and newspapers often make them a firing violation of company rules. But even in the top tier of journalism, dicey circumstance persists. Here’s one from a year ago in which The Daily Beast took a shot at the New York Times’s David Pogue.

August 8, 2012

Tracking Hate Groups

All the news purveyors figured out who the killer of six Sikhs in Wisconsin. He’s a long term member of white-power hate groups and played in their rock bands for years, after he was bounced out of the Army. Another outburst of insanity to be sure, but this is organized insanity — a tiny political party, a small religion — and more dangerous.

I wondered who got the story. It was pretty clear. No secret sources, no deep backgrounds, no arduous digging. You can read it on the web Site of the Southern Poverty Law Center, first posted yesterday (Monday, Aug. 6) morning. It is often fighting the good fight: Its web site

August 7, 2012

A Perfect Crime

What Plouffe did when taking $100,000 in speaking fees is a perfect crime, in that he did absolutely nothing wrong in the eyes of the law, but everything else wrong under all other perspectives. That kind of money would influence almost anyone, and it would carry weight this year, next year, and the year after. Many of our biggest politicians are already quite rich, and all of them continue to gobble up fees — though not during working hours.

No speech — not from anyone, not Obama, not Romney, not Bush, not Clinton is worth $100,000. No one pays that money to see a movie, read a book or take a single college class. All perfectly legal, but it goes to the heart of political perversion. If people rise high enough, they can make fortunes. Reams of stuff is written about contributions. They’re important, but not like this. Every official prominent enough to be a headline name does it. That doesn’t excuse it.

The conservative media are all over this and the liberal media are not, but it was the Washington Post that broke the story. Still, this doesn’t change the equation of who’s the better candidate. Here’s the story in the Washington Post

August 6, 2012

Books by Their Covers

Joe Ricketts, the ultra right-wing publisher who made a fortune from the giant retail brokerage TD Ameritrade, decided to bring out a book called The Fiscal Cliff by two economics professors, but it’s unlikely he wasted his valuable time reading it: The book makes a case for hefty tax increases in the United States. Not one to waste cash, Ricketts had someone slap on an introduction urging tax cuts and promoted it. I guess he figures that no one else will read it either. The LA Times

August 5, 2012

Introduction

Every morning I read some news, I’m determined to take advantage of Web news while it lasts.

Publishers are doing everything they can to re-establish their local monopolies over the news, but the problem is that too many people are like me and buying the newspaper long before I started reading them on the Web.

Most days, I read one story before running out of time, but they’re scattered over a dozen publications. I couldn’t afford to buy all of them, but not one of them alone is worth the $10 to $20 a month they want.

August 5, 2012

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Written by theunbiasedeye

August 5, 2012 at 11:25 am

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