Archive for August, 2011

August 3, 2011

China Hacked Into Over 70 U.S. Corporations and Government Organizations

by Ben Hoffman

A leading computer security firm has used logs produced by a single server to trace the hacking of more than 70 corporations and government organizations over many months, and experts familiar with the analysis say the snooping probably originated in China.

Targets included Associated Press, the networks of the International Olympic Committee, the United Nations secretariat, a U.S. Energy Department lab, and a dozen U.S. defense firms, according to a report released Wednesday by McAfee, a security firm that monitors network intrusions around the world.

The intruders were after data on sensitive U.S. military systems, the McAfee report says, as well as material from satellite communications, electronics, natural gas companies and even bid data from a Florida real estate company. Forty-nine of the 72 compromised organizations were in the United States.

“We’re facing a massive transfer of wealth in the form of intellectual property that is unprecedented in history,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, McAfee’s vice president of threat research. He would not name the private entities targeted, but said McAfee helped half a dozen of them investigate intrusions.

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August 2, 2011

The Boston Tea Party Has Become a Symbol of a National Disgrace

by Ben Hoffman

The Tea Party version of the American Revolution is not just fundamentalist. It is also Disneyfied, sentimentalised, and whitewashed.

Here’s a monumental historical irony: a moment in the origins of the United States that every American schoolchild learns to view with pride, the Boston Tea Party, has now become a symbol of our (inter)national shame. In one sense, it is difficult to know what to say in response to the utter irrationality of the Tea Party’s self-destructive decision to sabotage the American political process – and thus its own country’s economy, and the global economy.

Last week, while the US government was locked in stalemate and risked defaulting on its national debt for the first time in its history (and thus also defying the Constitution that Tea Partiers supposedly hold sacred, which declares in the 14th Amendment that it is illegal for Congress to default), Michele Bachmann instructed her followers not to listen to those who attempted to “scare” them with untruths that the US would default if it didn’t raise the debt ceiling. When, of course, that is precisely what it would have done. But the Tea Party has never let facts get in the way of its belief system, and now that belief system is genuinely threatening the wellbeing of the nation they claim to love.

Mottos are supposed to express a philosophy: in so far as the Tea Party can be said to have anything so exalted as a philosophy, their motto is quite telling. They are one of the most inaccurately named movements in American political history, but that inaccuracy is itself emblematic of the party’s adamantine ignorance. Any American schoolchild can tell you the motto of the historical Boston Tea Party from which they take their name and – they mistakenly believe – their inspiration: “No taxation without representation.”

Impatient with those extra two words, evidently, the Tea Party has truncated this proposition to something simpler: “No taxation.” Never mind that the US has among the lowest levels of taxation in the developed world, matched only by Mexico and Chile (are these the nations the Tea Party would like to emulate?). Never mind that the nation’s actual Founding Fathers were perfectly prepared to pay taxes – they just thought those taxes should purchase them a democratic voice in their own government.

Tea Partiers love mentioning Thomas Paine because they think they share his “Common Sense” (otherwise known as a sense held in common) but they haven’t bothered to read it, and are clearly unfamiliar with essays such as “Public Good”, in which Paine wrote that, especially while at war (as America currently is, of course): “To have a clear idea of taxation is necessary to every country, and the more funds we can discover and organise, the less will be the hope of the enemy.”

The Tea Party version of the American Revolution is not just fundamentalist: it is also Disneyfied, sentimentalised, and whitewashed. It rests on a naïve, solipsistic and exceptionalist faith that for America it will all work out in the end, because America is “the greatest nation in the world”. They take solace in tautology: America is great – this they know – because Fox News tells them so.

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August 2, 2011

Republicans Kill 4,000 Jobs – Right-Wingers Blame Job Losses on Obama’s Policies

by Ben Hoffman

Senate Fails to End Partial Shutdown at F.A.A.

After dealing with the debt crisis, Senate negotiators tried and failed Tuesday to end a stalemate over temporary funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, leaving 4,000 F.A.A. employees out of work and relying on airport safety inspectors to continue working without pay.

The partial F.A.A. shutdown, which began July 23 and is likely to continue at least through Labor Day, has also idled tens of thousands of construction workers on airport projects around the country. Dozens of airport inspectors have been asked by the F.A.A. to work without pay and to charge their government travel expenses to their personal credit cards to keep airports operating safely.

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August 2, 2011

Republican Representative Calls Obama a “Tar-Baby.” Naaaaa…. Republicans Aren’t Racists.

by Ben Hoffman

Congressman Doug Lamborn, U.S. Representative for Colorado, was recently on the 630 KHOW Capils and Silverman radio show discussing President Obama, the President’s economic policies, and the debt ceiling deals being debated. Lamborn used a controversial phrase to describe working with the President:

Even if some people say, ‘Well the Republicans should have done this or they should have done that,’ they will hold the President responsible. Now, I don’t even want to have to be associated with him. It’s like touching a tar baby and you get it, you’re stuck, and you’re a part of the problem now and you can’t get away.

I don’t want that to happen to us, but if it does or not, he’ll still get, properly so, the blame because his policies for four years will have failed the American people.

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August 2, 2011

Tea Party’s War on America

by Ben Hoffman

You know what they say: Never negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages them.

These last few months, much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people. Their intransigent demands for deep spending cuts, coupled with their almost gleeful willingness to destroy one of America’s most invaluable assets, its full faith and credit, were incredibly irresponsible. But they didn’t care. Their goal, they believed, was worth blowing up the country for, if that’s what it took.

America’s real crisis is not a debt crisis. It’s an unemployment crisis. Yet this agreement not only doesn’t address unemployment, it’s guaranteed to make it worse. (Incredibly, the Democrats even abandoned their demand for extended unemployment benefits as part of the deal.) As Mohamed El-Erian, the chief executive of the bond investment firm Pimco, told me, fiscal policy includes both a numerator and a denominator. “The numerator is debt,” he said. “But the denominator is growth.” He added, “What we have done is accelerate forward, in a self-inflicted manner, the numerator. And, in the process, we have undermined the denominator.” Economic growth could have gone a long way toward shrinking the deficit, while helping put people to work. The spending cuts will shrink growth and raise the likelihood of pushing the country back into recession.

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August 2, 2011

The Privatization of Government Programs: Waste and Abuse in N.Y. Care for Disabled

by Ben Hoffman

Medicaid money created quite a nice life for the Levy brothers from Flatbush, Brooklyn.

The brothers, Philip and Joel, earned close to $1 million a year each as the two top executives running a Medicaid-financed nonprofit organization serving the developmentally disabled.

They each had luxury cars paid for with public money. And when their children went to college, they could pass on the tuition bills to their nonprofit group.

Philip H. Levy went as far as charging the organization $50,400 for his daughter’s living expenses one year when she attended graduate school at New York University. That money paid not for a dorm room, but rather it helped her buy a co-op apartment in Greenwich Village.

The rise of the Levy brothers, from scruffy bearded social workers in the 1970s to millionaires with homes in the Hamptons, Sutton Place and Palm Beach Gardens, reveals much about New York’s system for caring for the developmentally disabled — those with conditions like cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism.

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We see this every time a government program is privatized. It becomes fraught with waste and abuse. The savings promised never materialize. The people in charge get filthy rich on the taxpayer’s dime and their workers get paid less than if the program was run by the government.

August 1, 2011

House Passes Debt Ceiling Bill That Will Increase Unemployment and Take Money Out of the Economy

by Ben Hoffman

The House of Representatives approved the debt ceiling bargain negotiated over the weekend by President Obama and leaders from both parties, sending the measure to the Senate and final approval that could come Tuesday.

Many Democratic lawmakers voted no on the measure, joining dozens of Tea Party-backed Republicans in calling it a bad deal for the country. But the complicated legislation to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion earned the support of members from both parties to win approval.

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This bill will cause 10s of thousands of people to lose their jobs. They’ll have less money to spend and therefore, slow the already faltering economy. They’ll be eligible for unemployment benefits so our tax dollars will be paying them to do nothing.

It’s typical of right-wing policies, though. They’re almost always bad for our country.