The NSA has lied to the public so often and so consistently that it requires some effort to trust anything they say. Kevin Drum points out another problem that further reduces one’s trust in the agency:
Henry Farrell passes along the news that the NSA is merging two of its major divisions into a single directorate:
The NSA has traditionally had two big responsibilities. The first — spying and surveillance — gets the lion’s share of public attention (and, it would appear, resources). Yet the second responsibility — protecting U.S. networks from external attack — is also very important….Protecting private U.S. networks and computers from intrusion means creating secure cryptographic standards that make it a lot harder for outsiders to break in. The problem is that other networks in other countries are likely to start using the same standards. This means that the better that the NSA does at securing U.S. computers and networks against foreign intrusion, the harder it is going to be for the NSA to break into foreign computers and networks that use the same standards. If, alternatively, it cheats by promoting weak standards, the security of U.S. networks will be weakened, but it will also be easier for the NSA to break into foreign ones.
As Farrell points out, the Snowden leaks showed that the NSA did cheat: they deliberately tried to introduce weaknesses into crypto standards so they’d be able to break into foreign networks. This makes their merger of offense and defense a big problem:
When the NSA had visibly separate organizational structures, with separate budget lines for offense (attacking other people’s systems) and defense (defending one’s own systems), it helped reassure outside observers a little that the defense perspective has its internal advocates within the organization, even if those advocates often lost. In a combined structure, that is no longer the case. Outsiders will find it harder to adjudicate whether the organization is prepared to prioritize defense over offense (at least some of the time).
And that has consequences….It may make it less likely that businesses will trust the NSA with information about vulnerabilities….It may further erode the dominance of U.S. security standards (and U.S. firms) in world markets.It will surely make the cryptographic community more skeptical of cooperating with the NSA. Because the NSA is the kind of organization it is, it has great difficulty in communicating its true intentions and getting others to believe them, even when it wants to. Split organizational structures (which are costly because they go along with budget lines, factional fighting and so on) are one of the very few ways that it can credibly communicate its priorities to outsiders, and reassure them, if it wants to reassure them, that it is interested in protecting networks as well as subverting them.
To be honest, I’m surprised the crypto community—especially overseas—is willing to cooperate with the NSA at all, given what we now know. They are plainly pretty obsessed with sneaking backdoors into both crypto standards and network devices. If the Snowden leaks didn’t destroy their credibility on this subject forever, I’m not sure what would. . .
At last. I imagine you’ve seen the numerous stories cropping up. Here are three good ones, and the videos in the stories are excellent and worth watching. (I write that as someone who is generally too impatient to watch videos.)
Motherboard: Gravitational Waves Have Been Detected, a Century After Einstein Predicted Them, by Beck Ferreira
Quanta: Gravitational Waves Discovered at Long Last, by Natalie Wolchover
NY Times: Physicists Detect Gravitational Waves, Proving Einstein Right, by Dennis Overbye
The video at the NY Times link is particularly beautiful.
David Dayen writes in The Intercept:
Companies that provide investment advice have been vigorously fighting a proposed Department of Labor rule that would formally require investment advisors for retirement plans to operate in the best interest of their clients — instead of ripping them off with products that earn bigger profits.
Investment advisors have claimed this would be disastrous for their businesses and would leave retail investors with no assistance in navigating the financial markets.
But behind the scenes, in earnings calls with their own shareholders, these same companies are downplaying the impact of the rule, reassuring that they could easily handle the changes.
This contradiction was revealed in a letter from Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Elijah Cummings made public Thursday. The letter highlights four companies with investment advisory units, contrasting their public and private statements, and implicitly raising the question: Are they lying to the Department of Labor, or to their shareholders?
For example, in a letter to the Labor Department last July, Jackson National Life Insurance Company president James Sopha called the proposal “bad for investors and for America,” and said that “it will be very difficult, if not impossible for financial professionals and firms to comply with the requirements.”
But in a call with shareholders, the CEO of Jackson’s parent company, Prudential U.K., said that the company would “build whatever product is appropriate… and adapt faster and more effectively than competitors.”
The lawmakers note in their letter that public companies are required by law to accurately report material information to shareholders. The Securities and Exchange Commission routinely charges companies with delivering misleading information on earnings calls. Pharmacy chain CVS Caremark, for example, paid $20 million for doing so in 2014. Citigroup paid $75 million for the offense in 2010.
Here’s another example: Dennis Glass, CEO of Lincoln National, told the Labor Department in a comment letter that their rule was “so burdensome and unworkable that financial advisors and firms would not be able to use it.”
But he told shareholders that “Lincoln, because of our scale, broad set of product offerings and strong and diverse distribution franchises with a proven ability to pivot in response to market or regulated changes… will therefore be able to navigate through whatever comes down the road.” He added, “we don’t see this as a significant hurdle for continuing to grow our business.”
Glass’s company and other are pouring millions of lobbying dollars into opposing the rule. President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisersestimates that “conflicted” advice costs individual investors $17 billion a year in retirement savings.
Warren and Cummings also include contradictory comments from the leaders of Prudential Financial and Transamerica Corporation. . .
Another reason people support Bernie: Obama Celebrates Nine Years of Doing Nothing About Money in Politics
In too many areas establishiment politicians do nothing when facing the problem of the adverse effects of oligarchy in the US. Obama has carefully hired Wall Street protectors as Wall Street regulators, and the outright fraud practiced by Wall Street—proven fraud, that led to criminal actions and large fines and settlements—did not put a single person in prison: there was zero accountability of those responsible for what happened. And Obaa similarly talked about the importance of the issue of money in politics, but then never took a single small step to solve the problem. Jon Schwarz writes in The Intercept:
President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, on Wednesday, nine years to the day after he kicked off his first presidential campaign there, and, just like in 2007, spoke passionately about his desire to reduce the influence of big money in politics.
In 2007, Obama said, “The cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests [have] turned our government into a game only they can afford to play. … They think they own this government, but we’re here today to take it back.”
On Wednesday, Obama told the Illinois legislature, “We have to reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics that makes people feel like the system is rigged.”
This time, of course, Obama is president and could actually do something about it. There are many actions he could take on his own, without approval from Congress or the courts. In particular, he could issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose any “dark money” contributions to politically active nonprofits.
Obama did mention dark money in his speech, saying that it “drowns out ordinary voices.”
He also mentioned the general concept of taking presidential action on his own, but only for comedic value: “I don’t pretend to have all the answers. … If I did I would have already done them through executive action! That was just a joke, guys.”
Activists have delivered over 1 million signatures to the White House demanding that Obama sign an executive order on dark money. A similar petition set up via the White House website’s system passed the 100,000 signatory threshold requiring the Obama administration to respond.
The White House recently posted a desultory answer to the petition that quotes Obama as saying that “We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics” — but doesn’t acknowledge the petition’s demand that Obama, not “we,” take specific action. Kurt Walters, campaign manager at Rootstrikers and one of the petition’s organizers, called the response “offensive to the millions of Americans demanding an end to secret money influencing elections.”
In retrospect, Obama’s speech nine years ago was full of foreshadowing. “I understand the skepticism,” he said. “After all, every four years, candidates from both parties make similar promises. … But too many times, after the election is over, and the confetti is swept away, all those promises fade from memory, and the lobbyists and the special interests move in, and people turn away, disappointed as before, left to struggle on their own.”
This is the sort of thing that drives liberals to Bernie Sanders: Bernie wants to attack the problem, Hillary seems to want to push it around her plate but do nothing about it, much like Obama.
First, the racing. This video is from an interesting Motherboard article by Rachel Pick:
Second, using drones for and against piracy. Again from Motherboard, this time an article by Jordan Pearson:
Criminals at sea are already going high tech, using GPS and bootleg submarines to plan attacks and skirt around navy ships. According to a new report from a consultant to the Canadian military, the next technological frontier for oceanic crime could be drones.
The report, written by a strategic analyst for the Canadian military named David Rudd, notes that drones could be used for “surveillance” and “possibly weapons delivery,” which would give maritime non-state actors, or MNSAs, as they’re known, a long-range advantage. These actors could be pirates, smugglers, or traffickers. Rudd quotes one academic as saying, “For the first time, non-state adversaries would have an air force.”
Rudd notes that this kind of “super-empowerment” could occur through the transfer of military tech or with commercially available gadgets. Either way, drones could spell trouble for militaries policing the open water.
But drone technology cuts both ways, and Rudd notes that the Canadian military should consider using drones to their advantage against MNSAs, as well. Canadacurrently uses its navy to bust drug smuggling operations at sea, and conduct anti-piracy and anti-terror operations.
For example, Rudd suggests that drones could be outfitted with sensors to detect “low-acoustic signature swimmers” like the DIY subs used by the cartels circling military ships. Adding a mission bay under the helicopter deck on Canada’s warships could allow for drones to be deployed in order to “protect the ship by identifying and prosecuting threats at long range, exposing a swarm [of pirates] to a high level of attrition before any surviving constituents could bring their own weapons to bear.” In other words, annihilate them before they can fire off a round.
The use of drone tech to keep up with the capabilities of pirates could also be a cost-effective way to make Canada’s cash-strapped navy more capable, Rudd adds. . .
It’s a fougère day. I really like the lather (and fragrance) I get with this Wholly Kaw shaving soap, and I really hate how the container is mostly empty space. I don’t think this one is even half full. I am sure it is full weight—i.e., no rip-off—but the wasted space and the extra bulk is for me a pain, especially since I stack soaps. I see no reason at all why the container cannot more closely match the amount of soap it contains. This would be much more satisfactory to me if he had used a smaller container that was filled.
So it goes. But that’s the reason I don’t pick out this soap more frequently: the feeling that I have so little left since the container is so empty.
That said, I got a very fine lather—I think his soaps are quite good—using the Fine Classic. And today I’m using the R4 baseplate on my new Rockwell razor, with the same Rapira blade I used yesterday.
I certainly experienced more blade feel with the R4 than with yesterday’s R3. Again a very smooth shave, but not quite so comfortable (or mild feeling on the face). Both shaves were BBS, but for me the R3 had greater comfort. Tomorrow I’ll try the R2. (BTW, if you get a Rockwell, note the information on the bottom of the box. I overlooked it until today.)
Three passes, perfectly smooth result, no problems or nicks. A good splash of Barrister & Mann’s Fougère Classique finished the shave in fine style, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s shave.