…it’s sunday…so hopefully you either got some rest, had a lie-in or are taking it easy…but as ever here’s some stuff that tends not to make me rest easy
It was a spring evening, he says, three days—maybe four, time had become a blur—after he had first begun tracking the hackers who were rummaging through the computer systems of RSA, the corporate security giant where he worked. Leetham—a bald, bearded, and curmudgeonly analyst one coworker described to me as a “carbon-based hacker-finding machine”—had been glued to his laptop along with the rest of the company’s incident response team, assembled around the company’s glass-encased operations center in a nonstop, 24-hours-a-day hunt. And with a growing sense of dread, Leetham had finally traced the intruders’ footprints to their final targets: the secret keys known as “seeds,” a collection of numbers that represented a foundational layer of the security promises RSA made to its customers, including tens of millions of users in government and military agencies, defense contractors, banks, and countless corporations around the world.
Now, staring at the network logs on his screen, it looked to Leetham like these keys to RSA’s global kingdom had already been stolen.
Using hacked credentials to log into a server that belongs to another company and mess with the data stored there is, Leetham admits, an unorthodox move at best—and a violation of US hacking laws at worst. But looking at RSA’s stolen holiest of holies on that Rackspace server, he didn’t hesitate. “I was going to take the heat,” he says. “Either way, I’m saving our shit.” He typed in the command to delete the file and hit enter.
Moments later, his computer’s command line came back with a response: “File not found.” He examined the Rackspace server’s contents again. It was empty. Leetham’s heart fell through the floor: The hackers had pulled the seed database off the server seconds before he was able to delete it.
The RSA breach, when it became public days later, would redefine the cybersecurity landscape. The company’s nightmare was a wake-up call not only for the information security industry—the worst-ever hack of a cybersecurity firm to date—but also a warning to the rest of the world. Timo Hirvonen, a researcher at security firm F-Secure, which published an outside analysis of the breach, saw it as a disturbing demonstration of the growing threat posed by a new class of state-sponsored hackers. “If a security company like RSA cannot protect itself,” Hirvonen remembers thinking at the time, “how can the rest of the world?”
This past December, when it became public that the company SolarWinds was hacked by Russian spies, the world woke up to the notion of a “supply chain attack”: a technique in which an adversary compromises a point of vulnerability in a software or hardware supplier positioned upstream from—and out of sight of—its target, a blind spot in the victim’s view of their cybersecurity risks. The Kremlin operatives who hacked SolarWinds hid espionage code in an IT management tool called Orion, used by as many as 18,000 companies and institutions globally.
Using the SolarWinds supply chain compromise, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, known as the SVR, penetrated deep into at least nine US federal agencies, including the State Department, the US Treasury, the Department of Justice, and NASA. In another world-shaking supply chain attack just a few years earlier, Russia’s military intelligence agency, known as the GRU, hijacked a piece of obscure Ukrainian accounting software to push out a data-destroying worm known as NotPetya, inflicting $10 billion in damage worldwide in the worst cyberattack in history.
For those with a longer memory, though, the RSA breach was the original massive supply chain attack. State cyberspies—who were later revealed to be working in the service of China’s People’s Liberation Army—penetrated infrastructure relied on across the globe to protect the internet. And in doing so, they pulled the rug out from under the entire world’s model of digital security. “It opened my eyes to supply chain attacks,” says Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure, who worked with Hirvonen on the company’s analysis of the RSA breach. “It changed my view of the world: the fact that, if you can’t break into your target, you find the technology that they use and break in there instead.”https://www.wired.com/story/the-full-story-of-the-stunning-rsa-hack-can-finally-be-told/
…it’s kind of a long read…& I wouldn’t call myself exactly a fan of wired…but that one might be worth your time if you have some spare…not least when you consider the context…& speaking of context
The Treasury Department on Thursday announced a plan to raise an additional $700 billion through new tax compliance measures, a potentially key source of revenue for the Biden administration’s multitrillion-dollar spending proposals.
In a 22-page report, Treasury officials identified a number of policies to increase enforcement aimed at closing the “tax gap” between what taxpayers owe to the federal government and what they actually pay. These include increased reporting requirements, new tools for auditors, massively increasing the Internal Revenue Service’s budget, and new rules on cryptocurrency, among other measures.
Some of the changes — such as billions of dollars in additional spending at the IRS — would require congressional approval, and many Republicans have long tried to shrink the agency. But the White House said the proposed investments would pay off by allowing the agency to collect the taxes that are due.https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2021/05/20/biden-tax-compliance-treasury/
“At the crux of these proposals is a commitment to revitalizing tax enforcement,” Treasury’s paper states. “Working to close the tax gap reflects a commitment to ending our two-tiered tax system, one where most American workers pay their full obligations, but high earners who accrue income from opaque sources often do not.”
Treasury officials have emphasized that their efforts are aimed at reversing the decline in scrutiny of particularly high-income taxpayers and businesses. Audit rates for corporations with more than $20 billion in assets fell from 98 percent in 2010 to 50 percent in 2018, Treasury’s report said. Taxpayers earning more than $10 million faced audit rates of 19 percent in 2010 but just 7 percent in 2018. Audit rates declined for taxpayers broadly, but the decline in audits for the rich was particularly pronounced.
…like those “high net worth individuals” & businesses who so often seem to get away with acting like a law unto themselves
Billionaire Charles Koch’s foundation has bankrolled three conservative legal groups leading the court battle to eliminate prohibitions against tenant evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic in America.
At the same time, Koch’s corporate empire has suddenly stepped up its real estate purchases during the pandemic – including making large investments in real estate companies with a potential financial interest in eliminating eviction restrictions.Charles Koch funded eviction push while investing in real estate companies [Guardian]
Between 2017 and 2019, the Charles Koch Foundation contributed almost $7.7m to those three conservative organizations, according to the foundation’s tax returns reviewed by the Daily Poster.
…it shouldn’t be a cliché that this shit is just “business as usual”
[…]despite the admirable efforts of Maryland hotel magnate Stewart Bainum Jr. and a few others, the shareholders of Tribune Publishing Co. voted Friday to accept a $633 million offer from Alden Global Capital.
In addition to the Chicago Tribune, the newspapers include the Orlando Sentinel; the Baltimore Sun; the Hartford Courant in Connecticut; the South Florida Sun Sentinel; the New York Daily News; the Capital Gazette in Annapolis; the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa.; the Daily Press in Newport News; and the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk. All have been assets to their cities and regions for many years.
It’s a terrible turn of events, if not a surprising one, because Alden has a proven record of slashing newsroom jobs in cities from Denver to San Jose and beyond, and failing to invest in ways that might make its newspapers sustainable in the long run.
Whatever its misleading public statements may claim to the contrary, Alden is interested only in the short run: the next quarter’s and next year’s profit-and-loss statements.
It’s not as if these papers are lost causes. They are still profitable in almost all cases, said Rick Edmonds, the Poynter Institute’s media-business analyst, though far less so than in their heyday decades ago. But “the sector is out of favor,” he said. That’s been increasingly true since print advertising — newspapers’ lifeblood for decades — plummeted more than a decade ago. Digital revenue, both advertising- and subscription-based, is harder to come by. But there are local newspapers around the country that are finding their way to long-term sustainability in the digital world.
And even in their shriveled states, local newspapers still are doing the crucial work of holding powerful individuals and institutions accountable, and helping to knit together communities.
The just-sold newspapers are essential to their communities’ well being. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to make a more sweeping statement: that healthy local journalism is essential to the functioning of American democracy.
“We’re slowly replacing a functional press with PR spam, hedge fund dudebros, trolling substack opinion columnists, foreign and domestic disinformation, brand-slathered teen influencers, and hugely consolidated dumpster fires like Sinclair Broadcasting,” tweeted the tech journalist Karl Bode, as news of the vote circulated online.
I’d only argue with one word: “slowly.”America’s rich people could have saved local journalism — and perhaps democracy. They refused. [WaPo]
…not that journalism is the only industry where “business as usual” might as well be synonymous with “the usual suspects”
The HQ2 process was an example of an increasingly common feature of American life: big tech companies putting on shows of government-style decision-making about government-scale issues. Recent examples include Facebook’s reliance on an ersatz judiciary to decide whether Donald Trump may resume posting and Uber’s efforts to create different labor standards for that special group of workers known as Uber drivers.
Public outrage tends to focus on the poor quality of these pantomimes. The real injustice runs deeper. In a representative democracy, the process confers legitimacy on the result. A piece of legislation or a court ruling commands compliance because the decision is made by duly empowered representatives acting under the law.
Corporations behave like governments because they want to invest their decisions with that sense of procedural legitimacy. But they do it for the purpose of warding off the government.
The show is a sham, a mockery of democracy. Corporations may be people, but they’re not polities. Their executives are not our representatives. The rules they choose to follow are not laws. And legitimacy cannot be borrowed to justify decisions contrary to the public interest.Companies Write Their Own Rules and Make a Mockery of Democracy [NYT]
The government’s permissive attitude toward technology companies reflects the special place that frontiers have long held in American life and imagination.
The frontier, however, was also a place where people could take liberties.
When companies are allowed to strike the balance, there may be some congruence with the public interest, but not enough. Corporations are participants in a system, not the system administrators. Regulating the nature and pace of change is one of the most important roles of government. It’s a job the government needs to take more seriously.
…this shit isn’t healthy however you look at the thing
Billions of dollars in Covid aid cushioned financial losses caused by the pandemic at some of the nation’s largest hospital chains. But those bailouts also helped sustain the big chains’ spending sprees as they expanded even more by scooping up weakened competitors and doctors’ practices.
More consolidation by several major hospital systems enhanced their market prowess in many regions of the United States, even as rural hospitals and underserved communities were overwhelmed with Covid patients and struggled to stay afloat.
Many of these same big chains, shored up by federal grants, are now in better financial shape than they were before the pandemic. Many are sitting on billions of dollars in cash.
How the aid was spent has not been fully documented. While the larger hospital networks aggressively sought the funds from the start, smaller organizations, children’s hospitals and those in rural areas or serving large numbers of low-income patients had more difficulty securing the aid because of the way the funding formula was structured.
Many of the big spenders among the hospital chains already charge the highest prices, often more than twice what Medicare pays for the same procedure, according to a RAND Corporation analysis.
In one case, regulators took a close look at the potential consequences of these deals. Last July, Cedars-Sinai, a Los Angeles hospital group that RAND calculated was charging three times the Medicare rates, announced it was taking over Huntington Hospital, with 619 beds in Pasadena, Calif. Cedars-Sinai received about $200 million in federal aid, in addition to tens of millions of dollars in other grants for treating increasingly high Covid patient caseloads as the crisis raged in California.
An analysis conducted for state regulators found Huntington’s prices could increase by as much as 32 percent if it merged with Cedars-Sinai and wielded that combined negotiating power.
Cedars-Sinai and Huntington sued the California attorney general in March, seeking to prevent the state from capping Huntington’s prices and restricting consolidated negotiating power. Those limits were ordered by Xavier Becerra, the state attorney general for California who is now the nation’s Health and Human Services secretary.Buoyed by Federal Covid Aid, Big Hospital Chains Buy Up Competitors [NYT]
…it shouldn’t take unusual intelligence or abnormal levels of empathy to recognize that this is an unacceptable picture
One coronavirus survivor manages her medical bills in color-coded folders: green, red and tan for different types of documents. A man whose father died of the virus last fall uses an Excel spreadsheet to organize the outstanding debts. It has 457 rows, one for each of his father’s bills, totaling over $1 million.
These are people who are facing the financial version of long-haul Covid: They’ve found their lives and finances upended by medical bills resulting from a bout with the virus.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/21/upshot/covid-bills-financial-long-haulers.html
“People think there is some relief program for medical bills for coronavirus patients,” said Jennifer Miller, a psychologist near Milwaukee who is working with a lawyer to challenge thousands in outstanding debt from two emergency room visits last year. “It just doesn’t exist.”
For 10 months, The New York Times has tracked the high costs of coronavirus testing and treatment through a crowdsourced database that includes more than 800 medical bills submitted by readers. If you have a bill to submit, you can do so here.
…so…where do we get more people like this lady?
…I know I could stand to hear a bunch more where that came from…& I’d love to see it come to some sort of consequence, too…because persistence is all very well
…but you might find it a little odd that the same voices that are so quick to decry “cancel culture” seem so keen to…well…get people fired based on pretexts thinner than the oh-so-easily-bruised skin protecting their fragile feelings
Emily Wilder started a new job as a news associate for the Associated Press on May 3. Just 16 days later, she was called and told that she had been terminated for violating the company’s social media policy.
Wilder was not told which of her social media posts had violated company policy, she said, just that “I had showed clear bias.” A spokesperson for the wire service confirmed that “she was dismissed for violations of AP’s social media policy during her time at AP.”
But the termination appears to be connected to tweets of hers referencing her advocacy for the Palestinian people and opposition to the actions of the Israeli government.
[…]Stanford College Republicans flagged a post that Wilder made in college, characterizing her as an “anti-Israel agitator” and criticizing the Associated Press for hiring her.[…]
In subsequent days, conservative outlets including the Federalist, Washington Free Beacon and the website of Fox News published stories calling out the wire service for Wilder’s hiring and attempting to tie it to the Israeli army’s recent destruction of the Associated Press’s Gaza bureau, during an attack on a high-rise building that Israel claimed also housed military intelligence for Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza. The wire service said it was unaware of Hamas presence in the building.
“This was a result of the campaign against me,” she said. “To me, it feels like AP folded to the ridiculous demands and cheap bullying of organizations and individuals.”
Wilder acknowledged that she may have violated the company’s social media policies, which ban employees from voicing political opinions, but argued that “these social media policies are so nebulous, almost by design, so that they can be selectively enforced … in a way that polices and harms the most vulnerable journalists among us.”The Associated Press terminates new staffer amid uproar over tweets about Israel and Palestinians, sparking backlash [WaPo]
…& why would you not give tenure to someone like this?
Protests erupted at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill after the school’s board of trustees decided to not give tenure to Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose pioneering work on institutional racism includes the 1619 Project.
Historians, activists, alumni, students and others have also expressed outrage about the board’s decision, which followed conservative activists complaints about the school’s decision to hire Hannah-Jones.
Hannah-Jones, who is Black, conceived of the New York Times Magazine’s The 1619 Project, which captures the origins and legacy of institutional racism in US history. The project has been a target for conservatives who have been on an aggressive campaign to restrict discussion about systemic racism in public discourse and in schools.
More than 40 faculty members at the university’s Hussman School of Journalism signed a letter calling the decision a “failure” and demanding more information.
…ok…so that question kind of answers itself, I guess
The 1619 Project was a target of Donald Trump, who as president attacked the work and created a commission to promote “patriotic education”.
Earlier this month, Idaho banned critical race theory in public schools, without evidence that teachers there were teaching the theory, which states that racism is embedded both in US history and modern American law.Protests after North Carolina university denies tenure to 1619 Project journalist [Guardian]
…yeah…Idaho…as in this piece of pettifogging performative pants-pissing
…sure it sounds fucking absurd & patently unrealistic…but the problem is that apparently there exists a terrifyingly large & demonstrably motivated audience for fucking absurd & patently unrealistic sophistry
Scientific research findings that are probably wrong gain far more attention than robust results, according to academics who suspect that the bar for publication may be lower for papers with grabbier conclusions.
Studies in top science, psychology and economics journals that fail to hold up when others repeat them are cited, on average, more than 100 times as often in follow-up papers than work that stands the test of time.https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/may/21/research-findings-that-are-probably-wrong-cited-far-more-than-robust-ones-study-finds
…particularly so long as it furthers the goals of the unspeakable while allowing its fans to pretend they aren’t really a bunch of fear-mongering racists studiously avoiding engaging with the very real concerns they’re busily co-opting to cover their small-minded bouts of hateful prejudice
An unusual lawsuit filed last month by Mark Brnovich, Arizona’s attorney general, is indicative of a growing nativist framing of the climate crisis, according to academics. In the lawsuit, Brnovich, a Republican, demands the reinstatement of Donald Trump’s immigration policies to help remedy the “pollution and stress on natural resources” caused by migrants who move to the US.
Groups opposed to immigration and “overpopulation” have also found fresh impetus following the election of Biden. One group, called NumbersUSA, has complained that huge swaths of Arizona have been paved over due to immigration policies that amount to a “forced US population growth program”.
Another organization, Negative Population Growth, recently launched a new campaign aimed at persuading the US president to undertake a “complete elimination of illegal and quasi-legal immigration and reduction of current legal immigration by 80%” in order to slash planet-heating emissions.
Concerns over population growth are not new, but the recent rhetoric indicates that the rightwing response to the climate crisis could be shifting from dismissal to antipathy aimed at the actions of other countries and their migrants as the impacts of global heating become undeniable, researchers have suggested.
“This sort of language is coming back again and it’s not surprising,” said Betsy Hartmann, an academic at Hampshire College who specializes in the environment and migration. “The overt position of Trump to blame immigrants for crime and calling Mexicans rude names mobilized these tropes and now we have a liberal administration they being adapted to these times.”
Hartmann said she was “very concerned this will be used by far-right groups to fuel hatred. It has become a sort of conventional wisdom now, which poses a real danger.”
But more recently the theme has been seized upon by those on the right pushing for toughened borders. France’s far-right National Rally party has declared that “borders are the environment’s greatest ally; it is through them that we will save the planet”, while, in Germany, the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany has warned the country’s environment faces “a great danger” if it allows in more migrants.
The most extreme versions of this thinking, known as eco-fascism, has cropped up in the screeds issued by those accused of mass murder. Shortly before Patrick Crusius entered a Walmart store in El Paso in August 2019 and shot dead 23 people and injured dozens of others, police say he uploaded a rambling manifesto to the 8chan website where he complained about the “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and how “the environment is getting worse by the year.”
According to some scientists, blaming migrants for the unfolding climate and biodiversity crises racking Earth not only stokes resentment, it also obscures more important causes such as overconsumption by the planet’s richest – the world’s wealthiest 10% produce around a half of all consumption-based emissions, while the poorest half of humanity contributes only 10% – and the entrenched power of fossil fuel companies and their political allies.
Jamieson added: “But if you’re trying to hang environmental concerns on to an anti-immigration agenda, that is so transparent, it’s just not sincere.
“When it comes to problems like climate change, nationalism is the problem, not the solution. Ecological boundaries do not care about national boundaries so trying to solve climate change within one nation state is not an effective way of doing things.”Right seizes Trump playbook to blame migrants for environmental harm [Guardian]
…because basic needs are basic needs…whatever side of whatever line you might find yourself on…& access to the sort of resources that don’t try to kill you shouldn’t be a privilege denied to some…although it undoubtedly is…& has been…largely thanks to this same kind of contorted confabulation of chronic “conservatism”
Jeff Merkley, a Democratic senator from Oregon, will propose a $30bn low-interest loans program for electric, water and sewage and broadband providers as part of the Maintaining Access to Essential Services During the Covid Emergency Act of 2021.
The loans would allow utilities to recoup money in order to stay afloat without resorting to fines and shutoffs. Utilities have long justified using disconnections as a way to force people to keep up with bills.
“We cannot rebuild the strength and resilience of America from the ground up if millions of families lose electricity, water and broadband, we have to keep these essential services turned on if people are going to get back on their feet,” Merkley told the Guardian. “This is like PPE for utilities. If we can get the concept in place, we can later add more funds if needed.”
A survey by the California state water board earlier this year found at least 1.6m households were behind on water bill payments due to the pandemic, with debt totaling at least $1bn. At least 25 small and medium-sized water utilities – 1% of the total – were at imminent risk of going under. Earlier this month Governor Gavin Newsom announced $2bn in aid for utilities to help keep the taps and lights on for millions of low-income residents.
In Merkley’s bill, the loans would be conditional on utilities canceling debts for low-income households. Two years after the end the pandemic, public and small utilities could see the loans forgiven for the amount of outstanding arrears, as long as they had not reverted to using punitive measures. Utilities that disconnect or fine customers would be obliged to immediately repay the loan in full.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/may/20/democrats-bill-water-utility-companies-coronavirus
Even before the pandemic, the cost of water and sewage was a growing problem. A landmark investigation by the Guardian last year found millions of Americans were at risk of being disconnected or losing their homes due to increasingly unaffordable water bills. People of color have been disproportionately affected by rising bills and punitive measures.
But shutoffs recommenced as moratoriums expired, leaving millions of families facing debts accumulated over the past year and new monthly bills.
Affordability is just one part of America’s Water Crisis.
…& to be asked to pay a premium for a chance to poison yourself sounds like you’d have to make it up
…although to be fair things like “biocontamination” are big words & these are tiny-minded types…so maybe it would help to draw them some pictures?
…& I know it’s not as recent as all that but not for nothing this is a characteristically astute illustration of how it works in the case of one of the tiki-torch bearers of the “polite” face of this kind of shit
American politics is being conducted under the threat of violence.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who has a talent for constructive bluntness, describes a political atmosphere within the GOP heavy with fear. “If you look at the vote to impeach,” she said recently, “there were members who told me that they were afraid for their own security — afraid, in some instances, for their lives.” The events of Jan. 6 have only intensified the alarm. When Donald Trump insists he is “still the rightful president,” Cheney wrote in an op-ed for The Post, he “repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on Jan. 6.” And there’s good reason, Cheney argued, “to believe that Trump’s language can provoke violence again.”
From one perspective, this is not new. Trump has made a point of encouraging violence against protesters at his rallies (“knock the crap out of them”), excusing violence by his supporters (people “with tremendous passion and love for their country”) and generally acting like a two-bit mob boss. He publicly supported Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with homicide in the killing of two people in Kenosha, Wis. (Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty.) He embraced Mark and Patricia McCloskey for brandishing guns at peaceful marchers in St. Louis. He deployed federal security forces to break heads in Lafayette Square.
This approach to politics is disturbing at any time. But now it has fastened itself upon an object, a project. Rather than trying to win future elections by attracting new voters, Trump Republicans wish to reshape the electoral system to produce more favorable results. Instead of using the 2020 presidential loss as a guide for additional outreach, Trump Republicans want to ensure they can claim and enforce a victory in 2024 with essentially the same vote total as 2020 — probably the high-water mark of the Trump coalition.
In some ways, the Trump movement of authoritarian populism is forward-looking. It eternally relitigates the 2020 election as preparation for the next. Compared with the utter chaos of previous efforts, this time there seems to be a strategy at work. First, undermine Republican confidence in the electoral system and stoke the party’s sense of grievance. Second, modify state election laws to try to discourage Democratic (and particularly minority) turnout. Third, replace or intimidate state election officials who show any hints of independence or integrity.The threat of violence now infuses GOP politics. We should all be afraid. [WaPo]
This is not a joke. This is not a myth. This is not a drill. According to a survey last year, a majority of Republicans agreed with the statement: “The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.”
…but…it’s sunday…& maybe I would have been better off just staying in bed…lie-ins are nice…but I can’t shake that feeling that ignoring the news is kinda like lying to myself about what the world is really like…& I guess I don’t care for the company I’d feel like I was keeping if I were to knowingly retreat from reality
…so…the reality is I need to find some sort of sorry-for-all-that-scrolling tunes to fit in at the end of this for today…but I also need more coffee…&…well…priorities are a thing…so I’ll try to come back & add those tunes…but first things first & all that?