B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

Congress Extends Itself Tax Extender Style

Relentless
Relentless

Gail Collins provides a good elevator pitch description of a tax policy tool called tax extenders…

One of the very, very few things the current Congress seems determined to deal with before it vanishes into the night is the problem of “tax extenders.” Extenders are strange but much-loved little financial mutants. Sort of like hobbits or three-legged kittens.

Congress, in its wisdom, has created a raft of temporary tax breaks for everybody from teachers to banks that make money overseas. Most are really intended to be permanent. But calling them short-term measures tricks the Congressional Budget Office into underestimating how much they cost.
“If you pass a new tax cut, you’ve got to find offsetting spending cuts. But these are in a sense free,” said Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center.

After the election, both parties appeared inclined to just extend all the tax cuts for two years while making principled mumbling about reform down the line.

But then the Koch brothers roared into the picture. They feel that it’s wrong for the government to give a special benefit to an industry that’s one of their competitors. Especially a government that they and their associates devoted nearly $60 million to getting into office. Politico reported that their representatives have been meeting with Speaker Boehner’s staff.

And you know, they have a point. If Congress actually wanted to do serious reform, it should get rid of special tax breaks for the wind and solar energy sectors. While, of course, also removing all the tax breaks for drilling oil.

(click here to continue reading Congress Extends Itself – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

November 17th, 2014 at 10:19 pm

The Diabolical Cunning of The Reagan Revolution

Nixon - Reagan (Rick Perlstein) #doubleExposure
Nixon – Reagan (Rick Perlstein) #doubleExposure

An excerpt from an interview/conversation between Thomas Frank and Rick Perlstein, which contains this illuminating exchange about the death of Democratic Party populism; how the working class Democrat morphed into Reagan Democrats, who now listen to Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and so on…

Rick Perlstein: And, just to kind of rewind, I was very fascinated to read a book of Mike Royko columns. You know, Mike Royko is this great liberal hero, a real champion of the little guy and the kind of columnist we don’t see anymore. This white working-class populist kind of guy.

Thomas FrankAlthough they didn’t use that term populist back then. They would have just said “liberal” right?

RP–No. They would have probably called him a populist, I think. But I was struck by how many of his columns.… One of his genres was how cruel they’re being to the little guy. One of his genres was the lives of colorful Chicago characters. But a lot of his columns were about how incompetent government was, and he would write about how hard it is to get a refund when the bus token machine doesn’t work, or the lines at the DMV. And, by the same token, when you read the toughest political journalism of the day by someone like Garry Wills, who was writing amazing stuff for Esquire Magazine, it’s so iconoclastic.

TF: How do you mean?

RP: He was so good at knocking politicians off their pedestals and showing them up to be phonies. One of Garry Wills’ favorite rhetorical strategies was to find out what a politician’s favorite book was, according to his campaign rhetoric, and then ask him about the book and prove that, you know, he had no idea what was in there.

So the point is, there was just all kinds of suspicion of government circulating in the culture. It was in the air. I mean, why wouldn’t there be after Vietnam? After Watergate? After the failure of Keynesianism? And one of the sort of diabolical, cunning accomplishments of Ronald Reagan and the Reaganites was to take that free-floating rage, rage about the failures of government and turn it to the advantage of the Masters of the Universe.

TF: Yeah. That’s the story of our time in some ways.

(click here to continue reading Thomas Frank on Ronald Reagan’s secret tragedy: How ’70s and ’80s cynicism poisoned Democrats and America – Salon.com.)

Sadly, this rings true. The GOP has long been the party of oil barons, media moguls, defense contractors, yet the rank and file of the Tea Party ranks are filled with working class and middle class voters, who consistently vote against their own economic interest. How does tax breaks for General Electric and ExxonMobil help a dude working at a muffler repair shop? It doesn’t, and yet…

Circuit Court of Cook County
POW/MIA Flag, Circuit Court of Cook County

The interview morphs into a discussion about the creation of the POW/MIA myth as a cynical Nixon ploy – 

They were quite heroic and the story holds up on its own terms. Unfortunately, the Pentagon distorted it — for example, made up things that weren’t true about prisoners being hung by their wrists and having their arms permanently broken. Well, that was easily checked once they came back, and their arms weren’t permanently broken. But I have the smoking gun, which is Nixon’s Secretary of State, William Rogers, saying the POWs are serving their purpose to basically —you can get the quote from the book — putting the military on a new footing, where they should be—to kind of redeem American militarism.

Illinois still has a POW-MIA remembrance day. So the cynicism is that, generally speaking, when a pilot would get shot down over dense jungle and they didn’t recover the body, they were classified as “body not recovered.”

…Presumed killed in action, basically. And one of the things Nixon did — and the Nixon Pentagon did — was reclassify them as Missing In Action, which served a very important rhetorical purpose: If they were missing in action, maybe they were alive. And if they were alive maybe the enemy had them alive. And so it created this sort of negotiating point. Nixon could accuse them of negotiating in bad faith unless they promised to return these soldiers that they were supposedly holding back. And that turned out to be the sorcerer’s apprentice, because he would always talk about the 1,700 Americans held prisoner or missing in action. And after the war ends and these 600 men come back…

TF That’s how many POWs there were?

Approximately. 592, I think, was the number. People would say “where are the other 1,100?” And their families would say, “where are the other 1,100?” And, basically, this preexisting group that Admiral [James] Stockdale’s wife had started up, the National League of Families of Prisoners of War, the White House basically turned it into their own front group and plumped [it] up into something much bigger than it had been. But then it takes this independent life of its own harassing the government for not more actively looking for their missing family members. So they played with the feelings of these absolutely traumatized families for political gain, and it eventually backfired.

(click here to continue reading Thomas Frank on Ronald Reagan’s secret tragedy: How ’70s and ’80s cynicism poisoned Democrats and America – Salon.com.)

There’s more, and you should read it…

Written by Seth Anderson

November 16th, 2014 at 9:57 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,

Americans Cellphones Targeted in Another Secret U.S. Spy Program

Conversation In Front of 110 N. Wacker Drive
Possible Criminal Conversation In Front of 110 N. Wacker Drive

Devlin Barrett of the WSJ reports that the U.S. Justice Department is collecting data on phones through a novel approach: fake cellphone towers on airplanes that fly around the country. Warrants not necessary, of course, because when you clicked through the EULA terms on your new smartphone, you agreed that you gave up all rights to privacy. Well, probably, because who actually reads those things?

The Justice Department is scooping up data from thousands of mobile phones through devices deployed on airplanes that mimic cellphone towers, a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging a large number of innocent Americans, according to people familiar with the operations.

The U.S. Marshals Service program, which became fully functional around 2007, operates Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan-area airports, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population, according to people familiar with the program.

Planes are equipped with devices—some known as “dirt boxes” to law-enforcement officials because of the initials of the Boeing Co. unit that produces them1—which mimic cell towers of large telecommunications firms and trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information.

The technology in the two-foot-square device enables investigators to scoop data from tens of thousands of cellphones in a single flight, collecting their identifying information and general location, these people said.

(click here to continue reading Americans’ Cellphones Targeted in Secret U.S. Spy Program – WSJ – WSJ.)

Eye see u Willis
Eye see u Willis

Sounds great. Warrants are so old fashioned, so 20th Century. 

Or as Digby adds:

But never fear, they’ve assured us that they are only using it to catch bad guys.They have no interest in anything you might be doing.  Well, unless you’re doing something wrong.  If you are an upstanding citizen there’s little reason to worry that the police might be re-routing your phone calls without your knowledge right? Why should you care?

In fact, we really need to re-think that whole 4th Amendment thing altogether. When you think about it, you shouldn’t object to the police ransacking your house and your car without any probable cause either. They could be looking for someone they know is in your neighborhood. If you have nothing to hide in your home why would you object? Sure, they might find something they think is suspicious in your house when they go on their fishing expedition but maybe you shouldn’t have suspicious things in your house if you don’t want the cops finding it, eh?

This is what we call liberty.

(click here to continue reading Hullabaloo- Secrets and more secrets .)

Do All Photographers Need a Warrant?
Do All Photographers Need a Warrant?

Mariella Moon of Engadget writes

These dirtboxes are also sophisticated enough to mimic a particular provider. If a drug dealer under surveillance uses Verizon, for instance, then the machine pretends to be a Verizon cell tower and connects only to all the carrier’s subscribers in the area. Once a target’s phone is identified (at which point, connections to other people’s phones are dropped), the box can pinpoint his location within 3 meters and down to a specific room. The WSJ’s sources wouldn’t reveal how often planes loaded with these boxes are deployed (they have a flying range that covers the whole country’s population, by the way), but they said the Cessnas fly out regularly to target a handful of criminals per flight.

Obviously, the more densely populated the target area is, the more data the boxes collect, but it’s unclear what steps are in place to safeguard innocent people’s information. It’s also unclear at this point if they’ve ever used the newer dirtboxes’ capabilities, which include jamming phones and extracting messages, photos and other data remotely. If you’re thinking, “Hmmm fake cell towers? Those sound ominously familiar,” it’s because this isn’t the first time authorities used them. In fact, this dirtbox project sounds like a larger, airborne version of a previous one, wherein feds placed fake towers called “stingrays” in moving cars.

(click here to continue reading Flying fake cell towers target fugitives, but can ID your phone too.)

City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle
City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle

Footnotes:
  1. Boeing subsidiary Digital Recovery Technology Inc. or DRT []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 15th, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Al Franken Ran As A Liberal, and Won

Everything Is Political
Everything Is Political

Senator Al Franken won re-election with a novel strategy; he campaigned as he votes: as a Liberal! And won! Sadly, too many of his party tried to win by playing up their conservative side for some reason, and then lost. Seriously, what is the point of presenting oneself as Republican-Lite? Won’t voters just vote for the actual Republican?

Luckily for the Wellstone wing of the Democratic Party, there are a few smart guys, like Senator Franken:

Across the country, other Democratic Senate candidates distanced themselves from President Obama and the Democratic Party platform. Mark Warner, who squeaked by in Virginia, preferred to talk about how he’d tweak the Affordable Care Act than his vote for the bill, while arguing that he hasn’t actually voted with President Obama all that often. Mark Udall in Colorado decided he didn’t want to be seen with Obama. Challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky wouldn’t even say if she voted for Obama in 2012—after serving as one of his delegates to the national convention.

Franken took the opposite approach.

Instead of running away from the progressive accomplishments of the Obama era, he embraced them, railing against bankers, advocating for student loan reform—even defending the Affordable Care Act. Franken ran as an Elizabeth Warren-style Democrat, running a populist campaign that didn’t shirk discussion of the specific policies Democrats could pursue to help the middle class. And voters rewarded him. “This wasn’t a safe seat,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in an e-mail. “He earned his victory by being a proud populist Democrat for six years and inspiring voters.”

Franken’s Republican opponent, investment banker Mike McFadden, centered his campaign on painting Franken as an Obama shill. But Franken didn’t deny his ties to the president and the Democratic party—and he would have had a hard time of it if he tried. Franken was a favorite of the liberal base before entering politics thanks to his combative, unabashed left-winger radio persona on Air America and his anti-Fox News books. He joined Congress in 2009 as the Democrats’ 60th, filibuster-breaking vote, allowing the party to pass the Affordable Care Act. Since then he’s racked up a clear lefty record, regularly ranking among the most liberal members in the Senate.

(click here to continue reading Al Franken Was Liberal Enough, Tough Enough, and Doggone It, People Reelected Him | Mother Jones.)

Maybe in 2016, more Democrats will decide to run as liberals. Shocking concept, eh?

Democratic Strategists Are Clueless - Tom Tomorrow

Democratic Strategists Are Clueless – Tom Tomorrow

– via http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/11/10/1342914/-Cartoon-Midterm-mayhem

Written by Seth Anderson

November 14th, 2014 at 9:19 am

side Doorway to Joseph Theurer House was uploaded to Flickr

blue toned wash added in Photoshop.

sometimes called the Joseph Theurer and Philip K. Wrigley House.

Read more:
http://ift.tt/1sIGRP3…

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/pL7jkB

I took side Doorway to Joseph Theurer House on October 09, 2011 at 06:58PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on November 13, 2014 at 05:00PM

Written by eggplant

November 13th, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Been An Outcast All Her Life was uploaded to Flickr

South Pond, Lincoln Park

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/pL99iE

I took Been An Outcast All Her Life on October 11, 2014 at 06:53PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on November 13, 2014 at 03:09PM

Written by eggplant

November 13th, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Amazon’s Echo Chamber

Echoing Rhetoric Not Your Own

Echoing Rhetoric Not Your Own 

and since I’m thinking about how odd Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com are, this is another placeholder for some later posting, a review amorphous as of yet…

It’s extremely hard for me to understand Amazon’s consumer hardware strategy. Usually, when a company has a strategy I don’t understand, I can look deeper, ask employees, or analyze the greater market to get a faint idea of what is driving the company’s behavior. But with Amazon, I can’t. There is simply no rational explanation for its products. The only thing I can come up with is this: Amazon continues to make hardware because it doesn’t know that it sucks, and it has a fundamentally flawed understanding of media. With Amazon.com, it can heavily and successfully promote and sell its products, giving it false indicators of success.

It’s an echo chamber. They make a product, they market the product on Amazon.com, they sell the product to Amazon.com customers, they get a false sense of success, the customer puts the product in a drawer and never uses it, and then Amazon moves on to the next product. Finally, with the Fire Phone, customers have been pushing back. You can’t buy a phone and put it in a lonely drawer, never to use it again, like you would with a Fire Tablet. You can’t dupe your customers by selling them a shitty phone, because a phone becomes a part of its user’s identity.

Amazon’s retail strategy of being allergic to profit does not translate well into hardware manufacturing. People buy hardware that fits into their lives, and becomes part of how they identify themselves to the world. If you want to sell hardware, you have to be in fashion, like Samsung was two years ago, or like Apple has always been. Amazon is incapable of understanding fashion, because it has no taste, and its hardware is completely unfashionable and tasteless.

Amazon is slowly destroying itself from the inside out, through its own echo chamber, by focusing on a strategy that will never work and does not even make sense.

(click here to continue reading Amazon’s Echo Chamber.)

The everything store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

Written by Seth Anderson

November 7th, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with

Jeff Bezos Is A Strange Man

Amazon - The Original Store

Amazon – The Original Store 

I realize I never got around to posting a book review of Jeff Bezos semi-unauthorized biography by Brad Stone, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. Mark this anecdote as a placeholder.

The set up to this story is a breakfast meeting between Matt Rutledge, the founder of Woot.com ((Wikipedia page, not actual website)) and the purchaser of Woot.com, Jeff Bezos, and Bezos’ shadow CEO:

So there sat Bezos at the breakfast table, faced with a question for which he was apparently unprepared. Many painful seconds passed without an answer. Rutledge let the pause lengthen as long as he could bear it and was just about to tell his host to forget it, when Bezos finally spoke. 

He looked down at his plate. Bezos had ordered a dish called Tom’s Big Breakfast, a preparation of Mediterranean octopus that includes potatoes, bacon, green garlic yogurt, and a poached egg. “You’re the octopus that I’m having for breakfast,” Rutledge remembers Bezos saying. “When I look at the menu, you’re the thing I don’t understand, the thing I’ve never had. I must have the breakfast octopus.”

Not until Rutledge had returned to Dallas and related the story to his anxious employees—now Amazon’s employees—did he realize just how absurd that explanation sounded. Before it can be eaten, generally, the breakfast octopus must be killed. 

(click here to continue reading This Internet Millionaire Has a New Deal For You – D Magazine.)

And I love Matt Rutledge’s new company name, Mediocre Corporation, and his spirit about entrepreneurship. 

Roughly two months prior to the planned late-June launch of his next big thing, Rutledge, wearing jeans and a t-shirt of obscure design, leads a tour of the standard-issue gray cubicles in his new office near Addison Airport, just a few miles from where Woot still has its headquarters. Within a year of his departure from Amazon, five other senior Wooters jumped ship to join him. All told, he has 35 employees now. He’s financing the business with his own money and jokes about his burn rate. The office space and the attached warehouse were once occupied by Heelys, the briefly red-hot company that made the shoe with the wheel in its heel. Remember it? No? Perfect closeout item for Meh.com. 

Yes. It’s called Meh. The opposite of Woot. Hang on a second. We’ll get to that. First: Rutledge’s Mediocre Corporation operates Mediocre Laboratories, which will conduct a series of what he calls e-commerce experiments. The first one, concluded late last year, was called the Seligman Experiment. If you’re curious about the name “Seligman,” you are encouraged, in keeping with Woot’s founding concept of customer service, to Google it. For Mediocre, here’s how it worked:

(click here to continue reading This Internet Millionaire Has a New Deal For You – D Magazine.)

Written by Seth Anderson

November 7th, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with

Spooky was uploaded to Flickr

Sculpture, West Loop

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/oX4Hg8

I took Spooky on October 31, 2014 at 06:47PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on November 01, 2014 at 04:01PM

Written by eggplant

November 1st, 2014 at 10:53 am

Yes, I Judge Your Politics

What Have We Done Wrong?
What Have We Done Wrong?

Jonathan Chait has a nice piece in the New York Magazine responding to David Brooks’ latest bit of twaddle (which you can read here if you are bored or a masochist)

American politics may have been much less partisan in the 1960s, but it was not lacking in hypermoralization. Indeed, it was far more violent. You had white supremacists murdering civil-rights activists in Mississippi, police brutalizing protestors in Chicago, and construction workers beating up hippies in New York City. That angry, hypermoralized politics took place outside of, or within, parties rather than between them.

There are millions of Americans who think it’s okay to deny legal citizens their voting rights or force them to go without health insurance. Those people live in a different moral universe than I do. They’re not necessarily bad people. (Lord knows the people who agree with me on those things are not all good.) But, yes, I believe their political views reflect something unflattering about their character.

(click here to continue reading I’m a ‘Partyist,’ and Yes, I Judge Your Politics — NYMag.)

Yes, count me in the camp that believes in small “d” democracy. If a political party can only seize power by disenfranchising voters through poll taxes, or other duplicitous means, than that party is corrupt. Even dudes who make a living collecting scrap metal have human dignity, and should have a say in their own governance, however small their participation really is in practice. One person, one vote, not one dollar, one vote.

And to Mr. Chait (and David Brooks) larger point: would I want my daughter to marry a Tea Party friendly, Rush Limbaugh reciting, mouth breathing, 6,000 year old Earther who believes the Rapture is approaching? No, I would not. I don’t think they would be worthy of continuing my DNA’s long journey to Alpha Centauri. But, because I am a liberal, if I had a daughter, I wouldn’t get to choose who she loves, I just wouldn’t have to like it.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 31st, 2014 at 7:54 am

Posted in politics,religion

Tagged with ,

Grand Is The Seen Light was uploaded to Flickr

Sun setting, Goose Island, Chicago

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/py9fBJ

I took Grand Is The Seen Light on October 26, 2014 at 05:51PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on October 27, 2014 at 10:05PM

Written by eggplant

October 27th, 2014 at 4:19 pm

I Heard You Sigh was uploaded to Flickr

Rain, Chicago at night

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/pMs4jz

I took I Heard You Sigh on October 13, 2014 at 08:49PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on October 23, 2014 at 08:46PM

Written by eggplant

October 23rd, 2014 at 5:06 pm

JPMorgan Chase Seeks Corporate Welfare to Build New HQ in Manhattan

Where all hopes sank
Where all hopes sank

I’ve heard of food deserts, perhaps New York City has a bank desert here? Why else would taxpayers fund real estate for one of the biggest, wealthiest banks on the planet? Well, other than the obvious reason, corruption. Sweet, sweet corporate welfare, it’s what makes the business world go ‘round…

City and state officials are negotiating with JPMorgan Chase over a potential deal in which the nation’s largest bank would build a vast $6.5 billion corporate campus with two high-rise towers in the new commercial district on the Far West Side of Manhattan.

The talks, which involve one of the largest real estate complexes for a single company in New York City history and a large package of incentives for Chase, have reached a feverish state after nearly falling apart this week.

The negotiations are so delicate that few people are willing to discuss them publicly for fear of alienating one side or another.

But a deal with the bank poses political risks for both the state and the city. Chase had initially sought, by one account, more than $1 billion in concessions from the city and the state while it continues to pare its payroll in the city. According to executives and officials, Chase wants to build the two towers — whose total space would be the equivalent of about two Empire State Buildings — at Hudson Yards on the north side of 33rd Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. They would become home to 16,000 employees.

(click here to continue reading JPMorgan Chase Seeks Incentives to Build New Headquarters in Manhattan – NYTimes.com.)

JP Morgan Chase Blues
JP Morgan Chase Blues

and additional evidence that Chase must have explicit photos of Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio in compromising positions, possibly with each other,  on a bed of lobbyist dollars while Jamie Dimon watches:

As is often the case in these kinds of deals, the bank drew up a lengthy list of possible concessions. Chase wanted to cut the mortgage recording tax, the transfer tax and sales taxes on construction materials. It also sought job-training grants, low-cost power from the state, an underground passageway between the two buildings that would require alterations to the newly built No. 7 subway station and financial help with reinforcing the foundation.

The neighborhood, formerly part of Hell’s Kitchen, was rezoned eight years ago for high-rise development by then-Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. The rezoning included tax breaks and other incentives intended to encourage new construction.

City officials, who estimated that there are already $600 million in tax breaks and other incentives associated with the two sites, have been reluctant to sweeten the deal for Chase.

The Bloomberg administration issued $3 billion in bonds to pay for parks, a new tree-lined boulevard and an extension of the No. 7 subway line from Times Square to the spot where Chase wants to build the new towers.

Officials at the time had assured skeptics that development fees and payments in lieu of taxes from new towers would cover the debt payments. But development has been slower than anticipated, prompting the city to take more than $130 million from the city budget to make the annual debt payments.

Chase has been eager to reduce its costs in New York and move technical and operational employees to lower-cost locations in Delaware, New Jersey and elsewhere.

Austerity for thee, not for me…

How about instead of giving JPMorgan Chase the $600,000,000 -$1,000,000,000 it is asking for, instead New York gives Chase employees an equal amount in tax credits? Sales tax relief, income tax relief, whatever, but only for the employees who make less than $100,000 a year? Sure they’d all have to file 1040 returns, but seems like a better boost to New York’s economy than doling out government cheese to a filthy rich bank.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 17th, 2014 at 8:55 am

F.B.I. Director James Comey Continues His Obfuscation Tour Re Encrypted Phones

Old US Post Office building Toned
Old US Post Office building – used in Dark Knight

FBI Director James Comey continues his public obfuscation tour, blaming the upcoming Joker and Riddler crime spree in Gotham on the fairly new ability of consumers to encrypt data on their own phones against unwilling intrusions by governments and other entities.

The director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, said on Thursday that the “post-Snowden pendulum” that has driven Apple and Google to offer fully encrypted cellphones had “gone too far.” He hinted that as a result, the administration might seek regulations and laws forcing companies to create a way for the government to unlock the photos, emails and contacts stored on the phones.

But Mr. Comey appeared to have few answers for critics who have argued that any portal created for the F.B.I. and the police could be exploited by the National Security Agency, or even Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies or criminals. And his position seemed to put him at odds with a White House advisory committee that recommended against any effort to weaken commercial encryption.

Apple and Google have announced new software that would automatically encrypt the contents of cellphones, using codes that even the companies could not crack. Their announcement followed a year of disclosures from Edward J. Snowden, the former government contractor who revealed many government programs that collect electronic data, including information on Americans.

The new encryption would hinder investigations involving phones taken from suspects, recovered at crime scenes or discovered on battlefields. But it would not affect information obtained by real-time wiretaps, such as phone conversations, emails or text messages. And the government could still get information that is stored elsewhere, including emails, call logs and, in some cases, old text messages.

(click here to continue reading James Comey, F.B.I. Director, Hints at Action as Cellphone Data Is Locked – NYTimes.com.)

Warrant - Not Found

You know what isn’t mentioned in this long article? Warrants. I wonder why that is? Could it be that most criminal masterminds do not store their plans to rob Gotham National Bank solely upon their encrypted cellphones, leaving law enforcement completely in the dark? Possibly The Joker leaves other traces of his plan elsewhere? Or discusses his machinations with co-conspirators? According to Mr. Comey, without the government retaining the ability to tap into each and every one of our cellphones at any time, The Joker will win. He’ll win! He’ll win, Batman!

or as Marcy Wheeler rightfully notes, this seems to really be about warrantless searching, especially at the US border:

Encrypting iPhones might have the biggest impact on law enforcement searches that don’t involve warrants, contrary to law enforcement claims this is about warranted searches. As early as 2010, Customs and Border Patrol was searching around 4,600 devices a year and seizing up to 300 using what is called a “border exception.” That is when CBP takes and searches devices from people it is questioning at the border. Just searching such devices does not even require probable cause (though seizing them requires some rationale). These searches increasingly involve smart phones like the iPhone.

These numbers suggest border searches of iPhones may be as common as warranted searches of the devices. Apple provided account content to U.S. law enforcement 155 times last year. It responded to 3,431 device requests, but the “vast majority” of those device requests involved customers seeking help with a lost or stolen phone, not law enforcement trying to get contents off a cell phone (Consumer Reports estimates that 3.1 million Americans will have their smart phones stolen this year). Given that Apple has by far the largest share of the smart phone market in the U.S., a significant number of border device searches involving a smart phone will be an iPhone. Apple’s default encryption will make it far harder for the government to do such searches without obtaining a warrant, which they often don’t have evidence to get.

If law enforcement wants to retain this access, they should be honest about what they might lose and why every iPhone user should be asked to carry a phone that is susceptible to criminal targeting as a result. Trading default encryption for a limited law enforcement purpose is just that — a trade-off — and officials should be prepared to discuss it as such. And, as forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski explains, there’s a mountain of other data still available to help law enforcement solve crimes. “There is such a mount of peripheral evidence out there that only a small handful of cases are even likely to have the iPhone be the sole smoking gun to begin with,” he explained. “Cops have iCloud data, iCloud backups, call records, voicemail records, text messages from the carrier (if obtained within a certain retention period), gmail, email, web logs, trap and trace, proxy logs, not to mention copies of data from other people involved or from the victims themselves, desktop backups (if available), sometimes even a desktop (as many criminals don’t use encryption at all). Add to that they’re eavesdropping on the whole damn Internet.”

(click here to continue reading America’s huge iPhone lie: Why Apple is being accused of coddling child molesters – Salon.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

October 17th, 2014 at 8:29 am

Posted in Apple,government

Tagged with , , , ,

iPhone Other Data Suckage

For the third time in the last 2 months, I’ve had to restore my iPhone to factory settings – a long, laborious process – because a sync failed, and left “Other” data behind. This “Other” data is music, but the iOS cannot make sense of it, and just ignores it, except I cannot ever sync the iPhone again because there isn’t enough room. There is no way to get at the file system to delete this crud, other than resetting the iPhone back to as if I just opened it from its box.

A real PITA, in other words, that takes several hours from start to finish. 

IPhone Data Other
iPhone Data Other.PNG

See, the Other Data is so large, that the iPhone sync process fails. Grrr…

 

First, Backup the iPhone. Turn Sync Music Off (click the toggle button), rsync. I’ve found that subsequently turning on use iTunes Match helps make this process actually work without failing. Backup again. Restore iPhone to Factory Setting, wait the 90 minutes or so before this finishes. Enable Location Services, log in to iCloud, etc., Sync. Wait until all the apps and photos,  books, etc. sync. Restore Hipstamatic lens/film combos. Toggle Sync Music back on. Sync again, hopefully for the last time. All told, I started around 4:30 PM, and now it is nearly 11 PM, and the final sync isn’t completed yet (though I had dinner, drank some wine, watched a little television, and so forth, these times might have been slightly less had I sat in front of my computer all night waiting for the various processes to finish) – it has only synced about 10% of my music so far. At least there is an end in sight.1

Lovely.

Oh, and also recreating the TouchID fingerprint scan, another few minutes of time – time that was interesting to do the first time, not that cumbersome the second time, but now, the third time in 60 days? Not ideal…

Footnotes:
  1. 12:33 AM when the phone is finally usable again. Sheesh []

Written by Seth Anderson

October 16th, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Posted in Apple

Tagged with , , ,