Links 12/30/13

Not your average Christmas lunch! Special treat for elephants at Berlin zoo as they enjoy pine trees donated by local sellers Daily Mail

Roughed Up by an Orca? There’s a Code for That New York Times

Make Your Own Teeth Harpers. The fact that this article is being written (and in Harpers!!!) is a yet another proof of the decline of the middle class.

1,000 customers (and counting!) pay it forward at Starbucks – and they may have set a new world record Daily Mail

How semantic search is killing the keyword Patrick Durusau

Marines bristle at prospect of more soldiers in Pacific Washington Post

Special Report – Japan’s homeless recruited for murky Fukushima clean-up Reuters (Lambert)

Germany Abandons Inflation Angst With Merkel Offering New Agenda Bloomberg

France’s Hollande Gets Court Approval for 75% Millionaire Tax Bloomberg

Shots fired at residence of German ambassador in Athens Reuters

Volgograd Hit With Second Blast Wall Street Journal

Saudis Pledge $3 Billion to Support Army in Lebanon Wall Street Journal

Why Oil is Mightier than the Sword for U.S. Foreign Policy OilPrice

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Catalog Advertises NSA Toolbox Der Spiegel (Deontos)

Why you should never, never, never, NEVER order a computer online, whether from Amazon or anybody else Lambert

How Britain exported next-generation surveillance Medium (Chuck L)

Obamacare Launch

New Obamacare figures: 975,000 in December Politico

Workers at auto dealership come face to face with Obamacare trade-offs NBC

‘Military-Style’ Raid on California Power Station Spooks U.S. Foreign Policy

Democrats Turn to Minimum Wage as 2014 Strategy New York Times. Only now, when the Dems are on the defensive.

The Politics of Dignity: What’s at Stake Robert Fuller, Firedoglake (Chuck L)

Living in a red state is hazardous to your health Daily Kos (furzy mouse)

U.S. Struggles to Keep Pace in Delivering Broadband Service New York Times

Activist hedge funds launch fight for right to pay bonuses Financial Times

Home Prices Back at Peaks in Some Areas Wall Street Journal

Don’t fret about soaring asset prices – this time is different Wolfgang Munchau, Financial Times (Scott)

Investing and Dementia macassio, Firedoglake (Carol B)

Does Religion Affect Economic Growth and Happiness? Evidence from Ramadan NBER

Antidote du jour:

Cute Bears-03

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64 comments

  1. bulfinch

    RE: residential real estate — not all cities experienced the same precipitous run up in prices as did cities in the sand states, so when TPTB conspired to throw everything at putting a floor under housing, it had the effect of goosing these otherwise relatively healthy markets. Think of a healthy patient receiving numerous rounds of adrenaline shots to the chest he doesn’t need.

  2. Skeptic

    Make Your Own Teeth Harpers.

    One of the tricks in the Toothy Racket is to have the laboratory work, that is the tooth or plate construction done cheaply by a lab offshore but bill for an onshore rate. Usually, the bill from the dentist does not give the itemized cost nor where the lab that did the work is located. Thus, lots of gravy for the dentist. Of course, if you ask for an itemized bill with the location of the laboratory, there will be much huffing and puffing…….

    Eyeglasses have punctured the above scam. You can now have your eyeglass prescription filled offshore at about 10% of the onshore cost. I have been doing this for about eight years now with great results. The optometrist will balk at giving you your eyeglass prescription but, in my jurisdiction, it is my legal right to obtain it. Of course, they get huffy and puffy too. One of the few examples where so-called Free Trade actually trickles something down.

    Of course, because dentures need to be fitted, possibly a number of times, the eyeglass model does not apply.

    The larger picture is that the victims of the 1% will have to fend for themselves. Start fending now!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It’s both a proof of the decline of the middle class and brainwashing as it helps you to acclimate yourself better to the new world (what’s the matter, can’t keep up with the times?).

    2. Katniss Everdeen

      On a serious note (and I’ll just say that I know a thing or two about this subject):

      DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.

      Denture “adhesive” is not “glue.” In case you’ve forgotten your anatomy, your windpipe connects directly to your mouth. If that little “tooth” comes loose just as you take a deep breath of AIR through your mouth, your homemade “tooth” could wind up in your airway or your lung. It HAS happened.

      If you don’t choke to death on your way to the hospital, you’d better be able to meet the deductible on your Obamacare insurance policy because you’re going to need it for the emergency surgery. And you’ll still be without a “tooth.” You might just find that going without or going to an old fashioned professional dentist could have saved you a whole lot of money and aggravation.

      PS. If you drink one Coke a day at $1 per Coke, you could save $365 per year by not doing that. That’s enough to get your teeth cleaned twice a year, for CASH, with money left over for an emergency dental fund which you’ll be less likely to need if you don’t drink the Cokes. And most dentists will give you a free toothbrush with each cleaning. Bonus.

      1. Optimader

        I am amazed such a stupid and latenly dangerous, oh let me count the ways, article could have gotten by an editorial review at Harpers.

    3. Mildred Montana

      Every day in North America shipping containers stuffed with goods arrive from Asia. Usually, they go back empty. Therefore used shipping containers are readily available here and cheap.

      With a few upgrades, they make wonderful homes. So much so that my local city council has brought in a by-law outlawing their use. China is providing the low- and middle-classes of North America with inexpensive, decent housing and the stick-the-muds in government won’t let us have it. Probably something to do with municipal taxes. Ya think?

      Screwed by big biz, screwed by guv, how’s the little guy supposed to get ahead?

  3. DakotabornKansan

    Make Your Own Teeth Harpers … yet another proof of the decline of the middle class.

    Access to affordable dental care and the consequences of lack of dental treatment affects not only lower-income but many middle-class Americans as well.

    Working in a free health care clinic, I have seen the toll that poverty and neglect has on teeth of the working poor. The level of need for dental care is difficult to comprehend until one sees it on such a level.

    Dental disease has been called “the silent epidemic” or “the hidden oral healthcare crisis.”

    There are millions of Americans who do not have access to a dentist, or who cannot afford dental care even if they have access to it. Only forty-five percent of Americans age two and older have seen a dentist in the last twelve months. One-fourth of US adults over 65 have lost all of their teeth.

    Medicare does not pay for dental care.

    Only 20 percent of the nation’s practicing dentists accept people on Medicaid. There are areas where there is no Medicaid available for dental care.

    Try finding work when you’re in your 30s or 40s and you have missing or rotted front teeth.

    1. normansdog

      Those who do not know history…
      Read “The road to Wigan Pier” by George Orwel – where he documents the plight of the poor in industrialised England in the early 20th C. There you will find a similar situation w.r.t. the state of their teeth.

  4. Skeptic

    Why you should never, never, never, NEVER order a computer online, whether from Amazon or anybody else Lambert

    Would this not apply to many internet purchases, anything that might contain a bugging or other tracking device? If retailers and shipping companies will divert computer shipments, why not other items? And, is this not fraud at the very least?

    This raises the larger question of Trust. Will some retailers now advertise that their products are not subject to NSA interdiction? Who will believe them? This is very similar to internet and telecommunications companies who are ready and willing to do NSA’s bidding and even profit from it.

    And what’s to prevent NSA from using an interdicted shipment to whack someone since Obomber now claims the right to whack any American. Beware that Holiday Fruit Pack from Hank and Dave.

    Anyone for local shopping?

    1. jrs

      Pretty soon why you should never never NEVER order a book online (what if it contained a fly size drone, huh? :)). But if you must be suspicious of everything pretty soon you can’t actually be suspicious of anything, too mentally taxing.

    2. jrs

      By the way if this is happening on any scale, this diversion of packages, imagine the scale of involvement. I mean shipping companies regularly diverting packages to the NSA? And how many people had to be silent to make that possible? The management and even some worker bees at Fed-Ex, UPS, USPS, etc.? All keeping totally silent. At least Amazon is a little more plausible, but still the scope. How many @#$# collaborators are there? It sounds East German indeed: half the population actively spying on the other half. Say it ain’t so.

      We are routinely told to disregard “conspiracy theories” because of the SCOPE of secrecy needed, how many people would have to be involved and keep quiet. Therefore Occam’s razor. Well if the NSA is diverting packages in mass, there goes that idea?

  5. Jim Haygood

    From the WaPo article ‘Marines bristle’:

    The administration’s national security strategy … envisions not a head-on war with China but the need to be able to confront Chinese efforts to control shipping lanes and seize disputed territory with a combination of air and naval power — and an agile, fast-moving ground combat force.

    The other services … formulated an Asia-centric strategy called “air-sea battle,” which calls for the Navy, Air Force and Marines to play the leading role in responding to China’s rise.

    “Air-sea battle is an essential part of sustaining America’s military freedom of action and ability to project power,” Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations, wrote last year with his then-Air Force counterpart, Gen. Norton Schwartz, in the magazine American Interest.

    ————

    So after four cold-war decades of outspending the USSR, and two decades of ‘fighting terror’ with failed invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, our reward is decades to come of outspending China.

    Flushing about 5 percent of U.S. GDP into the chronic malinvestment of maintaining a negative rate of return global military empire is the main reason why China is getting richer while the U.S. middle class corrodes away.

    Not surprisingly in a country that’s increasingly intellectually as well as economically impoverished, the option of closing down the empire is not even discussed. Therefore, like the U.K. before it, the U.S. will bring home its legions of overseas troops when their paychecks bounce.

    Losers: they won the arms race, but lost the war.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      “Flushing about 5 percent of U.S. GDP into the chronic malinvestment of maintaining a negative rate of return global military empire is the main reason why China is getting richer while the U.S. middle class corrodes away.”

      Don’t forget happily handing our entire industrial capacity over. Not because China fired a single shot or even made a loud noise, but because Jeff Immelt couldn’t make a big enough bonus paying Americans to make the microwaves he wanted to sell them.

      “Therefore, like the U.K. before it, the U.S. will bring home its legions of overseas troops when their paychecks bounce.”

      If they bring them home at all. Lots of hungry mouths to feed that, presumably,know how to handle a rifle.

      1. Jagger

        —–Don’t forget happily handing our entire industrial capacity over.—-
        Key point. Anybody remember the soviet leader that said, “Capitalism will sell us the rope to hang them with.”

        I just cannot believe we shipped overseas the countries manufacturing capability. That manufacturing ability represented independence and a good living for so many people and the country. Not to mention we become dependent on those who do build. We just handed it all over for short term profit.

        It didn’t happen over night. It took about 30 years and the powers that be were perfectly happy with that idiocy. People knew about it. I remember discussions on this back in the early 80s. Just insane.

        1. Katniss Everdeen

          Ross Perot vs. Bill Clinton. “Giant sucking sound.”

          Of course Ross had to drop out of the race when he made up all that crazy stuff about the CIA threatening to ruin his daughter’s wedding……

    2. neo-realist

      On some level, I suspect that the intellectual and economic impoverishment is part of a larger strategy to undermind the ability of Americans to resist the multinational corporate/1% state.

      When people were relatively doing well educationally and economically, e.g., the 60’s, 99% Americans made demands on the system for more of the economic and political benefits which arguably threatened and underminded those elites.

      Elite pushback with outsourcing middle class jobs, big business ownership and concentration of media infrastructure spouting free unregulated markets, cutting social spending on incindiary good for nothing minorities, to get the mob to buy into their destruction, and buy up the three branches of government and the rule is just about complete.

      1. jrs

        Yes, many have had the thought, RA Wilson probably where I first heard it suggested the education system was destroyed to destroy the 60s.

        But if that’s part of the systematic purpose of the educational and economic impoverishment It would follow then that if we could some put break on the economic impoverishment (without destroying the world in the meantime, infinite growth on this messed up planet is death) it might be a step in turning the rest around. I could say change the education system, but that would be so radical it makes a $15 minimum wage seem easy.

    3. Steve in Flyover

      “….Chinese efforts to control the shipping lanes……”

      I hate to tell you guys this, but the Chinese ALREADY control the shipping lanes.

      “Idiotcracy” personified……our government spending life and treasure, in order to keep the sea lanes open and secure, thus enabling the destruction of our manufacturing base, with the help of Wall Street and various CEOs of multi-national corporations.

      We are screwed on so many levels, it makes my head swim……..

      Daughter reports that her retail store is closed for 3-4 of the busiest sales days of the year, due to power failure. A “Made in China” component for their mall’s power failed on Saturday……new part has to come from China. They may reopen on Thursday.

      Of course, this isn’t the first time this has happened. One might ask why the brain surgeons who manage the mall didn’t buy a spare the first time it happened (and like this time, had to wait for a control module from China).

      Our future digital world is built upon a infrastructure of steaming crap. Ask anyone at the “tip of the spear” in the transportation, electrical generation, and IT industries.

      1. Fíréan

        re. “….Chinese efforts to control the shipping lanes……”
        eg. Hutchison Whampoa Limited (HWL) via subsidiary Hutchison Port Holdings’ Panama Ports Company (HPH) controls of both ends of the Panama canal, . China Resources Enterprises (CRE),a commercial arm of a PRC agency, has a ten percent holding in Panama Ports Company.

  6. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: Democrats Turn to Minimum Wage as 2014 Strategy

    IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN–DON’T BELIEVE IT–IT’S JUST A STRATEGY

    I know this should be intuitively obvious to the most casual observer, but I can’t believe that articles like this are still being written or taken seriously.

    Obama’s just going to talk everyone to death in that black baptist preacher cadence that he uses when he wants to bring the “folks” along. Ooooh, he’s even going to mention “income inequality” in his State of the Union. That MUST mean he’s SERIOUS.

    In case I haven’t made myself clear–Obama just wants you to think he’s going to do this. His owners will not LET him and he’ll just make up some excuse later or “take it off the table” because it’s not “politically feasible.”

    NEWSFLASH: GUANTANAMO IS STILL OPEN. WE ARE NOT LEAVING AFGHANISTAN. THERE IS A “HEALTHCARE” MANDATE AND NO SINGLE-PAYER. WAGE SLAVERY IS GOOD FOR BUSINESS PROFITS.

    Here’s a novel idea. Make him do this BEFORE the election and reward him with a vote when he finally keeps a promise. He needs to be trained like the dog that he is, and you don’t give a dog the treat BEFORE he rolls over.

    1. Bill the Psychologist

      You hit all the bases here…….(sigh, I voted for him the 1st time, not the 2nd). In my lifetime (~70) no candidate has ever promised so much, and then taken away so much.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Just to be fair to Obama, he didn’t really promise that much. Projection was the defining characteristic of the Obama candidacy and rotating to the Hillary position two weeks after Hillary. Considering Hillary’s qualities, those promises were bland and only forced on her by declining polling in early primary states.

        Even O’s 2004 DNC speech which no one listened to was a shot at John Edwards’* “Two Americas” which was about income inequality. Obama appealed to Americans who wanted to believe they were hip, non-offensive liberals, who were really smarter for watching Aaron Sorkin drivel (except Sports Night which left us all too early).

        *Edwards sincerity might be up for debate, but “Two Americas” was a reasonably thought out position much like his op-ed against the IRaq War (Edwards voted for it). Obama was always a yuppie who considers liberalism to be non discrimination based on color; although I’m pretty certain he isn’t 100% for women or gays.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Huh????

          In 2008, Obama SPECIFICALLY promised a much higher minimum wage, $9.50 an hour and indexing it to inflation.

    2. Lambert Strether

      “you don’t give a dog the treat BEFORE he rolls over.” BWA-HA-HA-HA!!!!!!!

      But what about the Supreme Court?!??!??!

      Give him a chance, he’s only been President five years!

      Mean Republicans!

      Would you prefer Romney?

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        I always thought Romney would have been much easier to push around than the black guy who, for all his cultivated “polish,” knows how to take a punch. Romney seems a little “delicate” in that regard.

        Romney was such a caricature. Every time he tried to do “mensch” it was a hilarious spectacle. He was so obviously a 1%er that rhetorically kicking him around every day for four years would have been like vicariously kicking the whole group around.

        And I suspect that having that 1%er continually in the nation’s face would have knocked the shine off the 1% pretty darn quick.

        As for the “supreme” court or anything else, for that matter, it couldn’t have been much worse. I think Romney would have had a pretty hard time pulling that “kill list” thing off.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          “I think Romney would have had a pretty hard time pulling that “kill list” thing off.”

          Not a chance. The Democrats would have lined up to support Romney the way they did W. We would hear excuses about politics and keeping the powder dry. Even now, Democrats are going back to their 2006 promises which were made when they thought they would only pick up the House.

          We would have a better chance appealing to Romney’s sense of decency than getting Democrats to apply pressure.

    3. Jackrabbit

      “The more Republicans obsess on repealing the Affordable Care Act and the more we focus on rebuilding the middle class with a minimum-wage increase, the more voters will support our candidates,” said Representative Steve Israel of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

      What better example of what the Democratic Party has become could there be? It’s not about doing the right thing or even good and proper public policy – only about craven self-interest.

      Also notice how a minimum wage increase is now positioned as “building the middle class”. Talk about setting your sights low!

      Obama has tried to sell raising the minimum wage as a means of addressing extreme inequality (it does not). His neo-lib con vision is to provide the poorest Americans with just enough to hope for a better life for their children. His definition of an appropriate minimum wage is one that is sufficient to provide enough for a two-income family to raise a child above the poverty level. In addition, Obama has sought to phase-in any increase over many years.

      Its no surprise that progressives have not jumped to support Obama’s lame vision (and our ‘Great Leader’ doesn’t seem to be troubled much by the resulting stalemate). So now Obama’s abject failure on the minimum wage AND healthcare has created a need for the Democrats to rally progressives:

      This month, top aides to Mr. Obama including the economic advisers Jason Furman and Gene B. Sperling, Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez and the legislative affairs office convened a meeting at the White House complex with an array of liberal groups to discuss the minimum wage. The gathering included representatives from Mr. Obama’s political arm, Organizing for America, unions and progressive groups like Americans United for Change and the National Employment Law Project.

      Any real progressives should not participate in Obama administration charades and CYA actions, no matter how well intentioned they appear to be – especially while the Administration pushes for an anti-labor, anti-progressive agenda in other areas (like TPP).

  7. Ulysses

    Chris Hedges was uncharacteristically optimistic in assessing the potential of the public banking movement to effect positive change:
    “We won’t be saved by anyone in Washington. We will have to save ourselves. We will have to transform our communities, cities and states into places where the consent of the governed is no longer a joke. We will have to take back power, which in a corporate state is financial power, from the venal class of speculators who hold us hostage. In open defiance we will have to build our own independent institutions. Of course the speculators will fight back. And they will fight dirty—they know the consequences of this revolt. Public banks are not just about the economy. They are about liberty.”

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/overthrow_the_speculators_20131229
    It’s interesting that a Republican state like North Dakota sets the example here, not a deep blue place like Massachusetts or New York.

    1. JTFaraday

      “It’s interesting that a Republican state like North Dakota sets the example here, not a deep blue place like Massachusetts or New York.”

      Well, I’d imagine that’s because they’re suspicious of Federal control unlike MA or NY, or even the former slave states, which mostly still seek to use the Federal government in order to impose their own brand of reactionary on the entire country.

      1. neo-realist

        In the bigger blue states, I suspect the large banking interests in those states have bought and paid the political elites to not let public banking happen.

        1. JTFaraday

          I live in a heavily populated Rockefeller Republican “blue” state and it would never have occurred to anyone to seriously question the federal government.

          So, if the federal government regulates the corporate banks, then why would you even need a local public bank? ie., I think it is a cultural issue. Nobody here has a conception of the “slick city banker,” the way they historically did in other parts of the country.

          Why these people who have something to lose, and who should follow the news and should know better, still haven’t woken up to their new insecurity is a better question.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      “We won’t be saved by anyone in Washington.’

      If you are lucky, you will be merely monitored by Big Brother’s Big Government.

      “We have to save ourselves.”

      We have to be Big Small People. Make ourselves Big, not Big Government, Big Business, Big Religion, etc.

  8. rich

    Is the New York Fed Too Deeply Conflicted to Regulate Wall Street?

    Slowly, like a tiny Goldfish in a large tank of water that grows over time into a monster fish capable of clobbering anything else placed in the tank, one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks has obtained unique powers not shared by the 11 other regional Federal Reserve Banks.

    This is just a partial list of how the New York Fed is unique among its peers:

    Over the past several years, Wall Street On Parade has identified for its readers a raft of conflicts of interests at the New York Fed that would not be tolerated at any other financial regulator. For example, its Board of Directors has routinely included the CEOs of the very same Wall Street firms it regulates.

    The public should rightfully expect that a regulator that presided over the greatest Wall Street collapse since the Great Depression would have its wings clipped by Congress. Instead, the New York Fed has actually found ways to become more hubristic.

    In early 2012, as JPMorgan was building up an unmanageable position in illiquid, toxic derivatives in a dark corner of its trading empire in London using the insured deposits of its banking customers, its Chairman and CEO, Jamie Dimon, was sitting on the Board of Directors of the New York Fed. As it was being investigated by the New York Fed, Jamie Dimon continued to sit on its Board, serving out his two terms which ended at the end of 2012. This debacle became infamously known as the London Whale trades. JPMorgan has owned up to $6.2 billion in losses from those derivatives.

    In March, Senator Carl Levin told the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that JPMorgan, in carrying out the London Whale trades, “piled on risk, hid losses, disregarded risk limits, manipulated risk models, dodged oversight, and misinformed the public.” Does that sound like a Wall Street firm that’s afraid of its regulators?

    While all of this was happening at JPMorgan, Bill Dudley was serving as the President of the New York Fed and his wife, Ann Darby, a former Vice President at JPMorgan, was receiving approximately $190,000 per year in deferred compensation from JPMorgan – an amount she is slated to receive until 2021 according to financial disclosure forms.

    http://wallstreetonparade.com/2013/12/is-the-new-york-fed-too-deeply-conflicted-to-regulate-wall-street/

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      “…that a regulator that presided over the greatest Wall Street collapse since the Great Depression would have its wings clipped by Congress. Instead, the New York Fed has actually found ways to become more hubristic.”

      And the same speculators in real estate are more hubristic as well, thanks to ZIRP.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m a fan of Martens work, but the boards of the regional Feds are in no way, shape, or form governing boards. She and most commentators get this issue dead wrong.

      They were established in the days when economic data was non-existent for the Fed to get the input of people in the region who had their fingers on the pulse of the economy. That meant a mix of regional businessmen. Labor and other “popular” interests were later added to (slightly) counter the hard-money biases of most businessmen.

      The Fed boards do not do any of the things a normal board would do. They can’t, for instance, set compensation for Dudley or other Fed officers, fire them, approve succession plans, hire/fire auditors, review/approve litigation strategy, etc. They just have tea and cookies with the Fed officials. Now they have tea and cookies sufficiently often to contribute to cognitive capture, don’t get me wrong. But they don’t run or oversee the NY Fed.

  9. diptherio

    Re: Does Religion Affect Economic Growth and Happiness?

    “…our results indicate that religious practices can affect labor supply choices in ways that have negative implications for economic performance, but that nevertheless increase subjective well-being among followers.”

    Isn’t it perverse that we’ve defined things in such a way that behaviors which make people happier are categorized as “economic negatives”? The economy is supposed to fill our wants, but what we really want is less economy, which is something we’ve defined as bad since we think we need the economy to fill our wants…no wonder we’re f*@#ed up as a species.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Well, if we are all selfish, it will help ensure an efficient economy.

      Go GDP go!

      Watch GDP grow!

      Give me a G.

      Give me a D.

      Give me a P.

      What do we get? GDP!!!!

  10. Brian

    “Why you should never, never, never, NEVER order a computer online, whether from Amazon or anybody else”

    Wouldn’t hardware components for backdoor access be visible inside the computer if you know what to look for? Or are they so small they’d be easy for even a professional to miss?

    Also, how would the software malware work? Is it just in the OS and can be removed by a malware scanner or, worst case, reformatting and reinstalling or using a different OS?

    The ones in the stores probably aren’t any better. It would be easy for NSA to make some kind of agreement with retailers to “inspect” bulk deliveries at retail distribution hubs.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, read the article!!!! It’s installed in the BIOS, which means it’s not in the OS, it’s in the motherboard. The article is clear that a disk wipe and an OS install will not get rid of the snooping, and it is therefore also beyond the reach of malware scanners (unless geeks figure out how to scan the BIOS based on this revelation).

      1. bob

        That doesn’t mean that it can’t be installed remotely. Access to a wintel bios is a little more difficult, but the way iOS is done, it can be accessed and updated by apple.
        BIOS virii are not new. UEFI was supposed to stop this possibility (according to hollywood and the hardware cabals).
        If they are bypassing UEFI it shows that they are working with the hardware manufactures. “trusted”

    2. J.

      It would be very easy to overlook evil hardware. Here’s a proof of concept with evil firmware for a network card:
      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/23/network_card_rootkit/

      The worst stuff hides itself from the OS. If the NSA has fiddled with your bios so that it reinstalls a rootkit every time you reboot, it doesn’t matter if you reinstall the OS – the bios loads the OS. I’m sure they have evil bios flavors for most operating systems.

      If you mail-order a computer they can intercept your package and do stuff especially for you before you get it, and if you bring one home and put it on the internet they can intercept your connection and give you some free addons. It’s likely the NSA has backdoored a lot of network hardware like routers, wireless access points, etc. so they are able to spoof even “secured” connections.

      The computers at some random store haven’t been customized just for you, so if you buy one off the shelf at Best Buy and never let it on the internet, the NSA will have to get physical access to it before they can install malware. That is: don’t leave it unattended in your hotel room or plug in usb sticks you found in the parking lot even if they are labeled “2014 salaries”.

      Going to be interesting to see how much hardware the rest of the world buys from the US next quarter.

      1. subgenius

        …but if you are the NSA, wouldn’t you just pay to insert the code at the point of production? (see history about CryptoAG for perspective…) In which case the chipset would be compromised even if you built the system yourself…

  11. jfleni

    RE: “U.S. Struggles to Keep Pace in Delivering Broadband Service”

    Of course it’s a struggle as the article illuminates clearly. And all the “Free Enterprise” hymns and incantations have deceived the public and have made the problem much worse. It’s an immense fraud and theft by the plutocrats, denying us of a PROVEN method of improving economic outcomes over time.

    Rather than leave the job to Dogpatch-DC, we must follow FDR’s example and federally prohibit state laws limiting competition, in electric systems in the FDR example, and communication systems in our time. Then State House thieves cannot be bought by cable-crats and rancid telephone companies, leaving the really good ones and the public to benefit together!

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Don’t fret about soaring asset prices.

    Really? Oh, yes.

    Most Americans do not fret about them, because, er, because they don’t have any assets.

    It’s like financial illiteracy.

    Many people are financially illiterate because they lack the only really powerful motivation – they really don’t know what it is like to be able to buy other people off. They don’t have that experience, whereas most kids with rich parents learned by age six, if not earlier, that to maintain the lifestyle they desire, they have to be ‘financially literate.’

    1. ambrit

      One of the people I work with was in the Marine Expeditionary Force during the second Iraq Action and predicted this would happen. “The best thing we did was give them someone they could all hate enough to get along together. When we left, well…”

  13. Antifa

    Semantics, keywords, SEO, internet marketing with words, images, sounds — these are all occult topics to the average user. To those of us whose income depends on knowing everything we can about how Google “thinks” it is a genuinely bread and butter subject.

    The thing is, search engines don’t “think” at all. Google’s intricate algorithms are not intelligent, they are just intelligent routines people thought up to slice and dice and organize words found on webpages. These new semantic search tools are just more ways to more accurately try to spell out for our stupid, stupid, stupid silicon-based computing devices some useful clues about what the human at the keyboard actually wants and doesn’t want.

    You always have to draw the search engine a picture. Always. First with crayons, then fingerpaints, then oils and acrylics, then a ballpoint pen, then a scalpel carving out finer and finer details. And the search engine still doesn’t know a damn thing about what you told it. It just delivers the clues you provide, and uses them to sort out which ones to deliver first, second, third . . .

    When, someday, an artificial intelligence search engine exists, and it is compared to what Google used to have to do back in 2014 to help webmasters spell out for searchers what a webpage is about, no one will believe it who hadn’t had to do it themselves.

    But guessing or deducing what a particular human wants at any particular moment is something few of us humans can claim to have mastered. What will it take for our smartphone of the future to guess so accurately? Even quantum computing may not be fast enough to match the speed of human desire and curiosity.

  14. JohnB

    Am watching a documentary ‘Triumph of the Nerds’, and there is this great clip about the invention of computer spreadsheets with VisiCalc on the early Apple II computer, and how this revolutionaized finanace and helped enable a whole new era of predatory finance:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPUR-WksvKY

    Really fascinating intersection of early computer industry pioneering, mixed with financial deregulation and greed.

    1. JohnB

      Find and watch this whole documentary actually – it’s very good, and has a few very interesting pieces, such as the above, plus information about how Microsoft struck their early deal/business with IBM (screwing over a competitor in the process).

      This almost didn’t happen (the business almost went to a company who developed the ‘CPM’ operating system), and it would have made the last 30 years and the present world, very different if it things had gone the other way.

  15. down2long

    The Family Research Council ad was a bit of a surprise. In keeping with my open-dialogue stance, and my love of Yves, the crew, and Naked Capitalism, get your money where you can, right? I’m more curious than anything about the NC demographic profile that made FRC think this was a worthwhile buy.

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