Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Last Call

So, forget about Chris Christie still not running for President or Apple's iPhone5 iPhone4S, the real news today is all about Helicopter Ben.

Bernanke also signaled that the Fed will consider further action if the economy continues to worsen. The Fed’s policy committee “will continue to closely monitor economic developments and is prepared to take further action as appropriate to promote a stronger economic recovery in a context of price stability,” he said.

The warning to lawmakers came as the Fed chief acknowledged the weak recovery and delivered a dour outlook on the economy.

“Overall, the recovery from the crisis has been much less robust than we had hoped,” Bernanke said. He said that the Fed’s policymaking committee “now expects a somewhat slower pace of economic growth over coming quarters” than it did in June, when it last released formal projections.

And of course, Republicans want to make sure that the Fed can do absolutely nothing.
 A Republican leader in Congress was poised on Tuesday to introduce legislation to strip the Federal Reserve of its mandate to ensure full employment, the latest bid in Washington to clip the central bank's powers.

Yes, why should the government do anything about unemployment right now?

Time to Tweet For Jobs, folks.  Let the GOP know the real jobs in danger are their own.

A New Low For The New Worst Governor In America

Looks like Ohio Republican John Kasich is not only the new most hated governor in the land (surpassing Florida's odious GOP Jackass-in-Chief, Rick Scott) but he's now giving Scott a solid run for his money in the outright worst in the nation category.  MoJo's excellent Mac McClelland:

While we're all at being (rightfully) mad at some really rich people, let's splash some more fuel onto the class-warfare fire. Think tank Innovation Ohio has released some stats about that state's governor, John Kasich, who is trying to kill collective bargaining with a bill called SB 5 and who recently slashed funding to services people sort of need, like schools and firefighting.

But the Ohio legislature isn't spreading the pain equally—namely, not among themselves. According to IO's most recent report, Kasich took a raise of more than $10,000 over the last governor's salary, bringing his pay to $148,165. And exempted the salary from the SB 5 provision that cuts automatic annual raises for other public employees. And lied about how much he pays his staff, whose senior members make $110,000. Also unaffected by the recent massive budget cuts is the Ohio General Assembly's minimum salary of $60K—for a part-time job in a state where the average worker makes $40K. Of course, 62 of the 70 legislators who voted for SB 5 make more than that minimum. Those 62 receive annual bonuses up to $34k. No wonder there was so much protesting going on when I was there.

So yeah, with all the howling from Ohio Republicans that the Buckeye State had to end collective bargaining rights for those awful, greedy state employees so that Ohio counties and municipalities could make "painful but necessary" budget cuts, not only did they lock down salaries for government employees in the state, they then went and gave themselves a big fat ol' raise on the taxpayer dime.

Anyone surprised by this, please email me your bank account info, I need to get a couple billion dollars out of a Nigerian prince or two.  Seriously, exciting new branches of theoretical mathematics have yet to be discovered that can sufficiently quantify how much of a complete asshole John Kasich is.

But hey, Republicans given power?  Surprise!  They abuse it.

Your Political Cartoon Of The Moment

John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune:

Just some perspective.

Strange Love: Timon and Pumbaa Style

Just so we don't take ourselves too seriously all the time:

This is what a meerkat and micro pig would look like in real life.  Timon and Pumbaa, named for characters out of Disney's Lion King are real life best friends.  And the cute as hell thing is just a happy coincidence.  The two bonded after staying in adjacent quarters, and became friendly through the chickenwire.

For more aww moments, click here to read the full article.



The boys over at Android Police have been working hard.  They have found a lot of background on how certain HTC devices have a nasty habit of collecting a ridiculous amount of information and have left it completely unguarded.  They go into some detail about how that information can be used, including cloning, but this security lapse is the type that can be used for an incredible number of problems.

In recent updates to some of its devices, HTC introduces a suite of logging tools that collected information. Lots of information. LOTS. Whatever the reason was, whether for better understanding problems on users' devices, easier remote analysis, corporate evilness - it doesn't matter. If you, as a company, plant these information collectors on a device, you better be DAMN sure the information they collect is secured and only available to privileged services or the user, after opting in.

That is not the case. What Trevor found is only the tip of the iceberg - we are all still digging deeper - but currently any app on affected devices that requests a single android.permission.INTERNET (which is normal for any app that connects to the web or shows ads) can get its hands on:

  • the list of user accounts, including email addresses and sync status for each
  • last known network and GPS locations and a limited previous history of locations
  • phone numbers from the phone log
  • SMS data, including phone numbers and encoded text (not sure yet if it's possible to decode it, but very likely)
  • system logs (both kernel/dmesg and app/logcat), which includes everything your running apps do and is likely to include email addresses, phone numbers, and other private info
  • Normally, applications get access to only what is allowed by the permissions they request, so when you install a simple, innocent-looking new game from the Market that only asks for the INTERNET permission (to submit scores online, for example), you don't expect it to read your phone log or list of emails.
 But that's not all. After looking at the huge amount of data (the log file was 3.5MB on my EVO 3D) that is vulnerable to apps exploiting this vulnerability all day, I found the following is also exposed (granted, some of which may be already available to any app via the Android APIs):
  • active notifications in the notification bar, including notification text
  • build number, bootloader version, radio version, kernel version
  • network info, including IP addresses
  • full memory info
  • CPU info
  • file system info and free space on each partition
  • running processes
  • current snapshot/stacktrace of not only every running process but every running thread
  • list of installed apps, including permissions used, user ids, versions, and more
  • system properties/variables
  • currently active broadcast listeners and history of past broadcasts received
  • currently active content providers
  • battery info and status, including charging/wake lock history

In other words, giving permission for what seems innocent, such as high score or playing with a friend can lead to a stalkertastic time, including every call or message that is sent, and directly accessing account information.  It isn't made clear to users, and it isn't protected.  The best these geeks can tell there is no obvious reason to collect user data of this magnitude, and yet it's being done without apology or correction.

It's time to increase accountability for tracking our information and protecting it.  Period.

Rhapsody Acquiring Napster?

CNET reports a rumor that Rhapsody may announce its purchase of Napster as early as this afternoon.  While not confirmed, CNET is not known for reporting fluff, so I will take them at their word.

Rhapsody has made a few changes in the past years to model Napster's popularity.  I don't like either service personally, so I'll keep my Grooveshark, thankyouverymuch.

For those who may be upset at this merger, please check out Grooveshark.  Unlike Pandora, it lets you hand pick your songs, and play them without limitation. Their radio stations are a bit limited, but used in tandem with Pandora you can enjoy the best of both worlds... for free.

Why the hate for Rhapsody?  Years ago, it took me and a fellow geek friend HOURS to remove all their helpful crumbs left all over my hard drive.  I bear one hell of a grudge when it comes to that type of intrusion, and I've never let them near a machine of mine since, despite the fact that at one time they were the only ones who offered the type of music service I wanted.

It broke late Monday that the purchase went through.  Slashdot and CNET will be running updates, as a few different terms and prices have come out.

Profiles In Courage: Pass The Damn Bill Edition, Part 2

McClatchy at least gets it right when they say that Republicans are blocking President Obama's jobs legislation, and the White House is now moving to make it very, very unpleasant to do so.

With Republicans killing prospects for a comprehensive jobs bill, the White House is planning a fall strategy it hopes will wrangle enough GOP votes for a package some economists say would add as many as 1.9 million jobs to a sagging economy — at least temporarily.

The White House's new 60-day legislative-political strategy is designed to pressure Republicans in Obama-friendly districts to support his proposed $447 billion jobs bill and accompanying tax increases — or face blame at home heading into the 2012 election year.

To drive the strategy, Obama will go on the road more this fall, presumably to many of those Republican districts, rather than sitting at a negotiating table in Washington as he did this summer for weeks with congressional Republicans.

The need for a Plan B was evident Monday as House Republicans said flatly that they won't approve the entire jobs bill as Obama has demanded.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told reporters the entire package is dead in the House. The measure includes extension and expansion of a one-year payroll tax cut, extension of unemployment benefits, and cash for public works projects.

"The president continues to say, 'Pass my bill in its entirety,'" Cantor said. "The outset, the all-or-nothing approach is just unacceptable."

OK Republicans, you want to block the American Jobs Act?  It's going to cost you your jobs next November.  Time to call your Representative's office and raise some hell, folks.  Time to make the House GOP so nervous they fold, and only we can make that happen.

House Switchboard operator: (202) 224-3121.  

[UPDATE]  Ezra Klein:  The American Jobs Act is dead.

Stockholm Syndrome Politics

Via BooMan, we see the 2012 argument against Obama by the Sensible Centrist crowd is beginning to pick up play.  "If we vote Obama out, the Tea Party will vanish!"  Leonard Pitts at the Miami Herald at least entertains the idea:

You might think Obama’s re-election would solve this, offering as it would stark repudiation of the politics of panic, paranoia and reactionary extremism this ideology represents. The problem is, these folks thrive on repudiation, on a free-floating conviction that they have been done wrong, cheated and mistreated by the tides of history and progress, change and demography. So there is every reason to believe, particularly given the weakness of the economy, that being repudiated in next year’s election would only make them redouble their intensity, confirming them as it would in their own victimhood.

And ask yourself: what form could that redoubling take? How do you up the ante from this? What is the logical next step after two years of screaming, rocks through windows, threats against legislators and rhetoric that could start a fire?

An awful, obvious answer suggests itself. You reject it instinctively. This is, after all, America, not some unstable fledgling democracy.

Then you realize it was not so long ago that a man blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City out of anti-government sentiment not so different from that espoused by the tea party. And you remember how that tragedy exposed an entire network of armed anti-government zealots gathering in the woods.

And you read where the Southern Poverty Law Center says the number of radical anti-government groups spiked to 824 in 2010, a 61 percent increase over just the previous year.

And you wonder.

No, I don't wonder.  Like BooMan, I know that if the Tea Party really wanted to do damage to America and blow everything up and cause untold hardship to tens of millions of Americans, we'd just have to follow their economic and social policies.  So yeah, if you really, honestly think the Tea Party is A) that dangerous and B) will simply vanish into that good night once Obama's gone, you really do deserve a country run by these dangerous idiots.

Expect to see a lot more of this as the months roll on and we get closer. It's the crucial argument that the Sensible Centrist need in order to convince America to vote against their own self-interest.  It's a patently ridiculous argument that assumes the Tea Party is going to just vanish after being handed the reins.

You have to look no further than states like Florida or Ohio to see what kind of future that path holds for America.

New Tag:  Hostage Taking 101.


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