First off, hats off to CBS News for one hell of a fine discussion about what the NSA does – and does not do relative to American citizens, privacy, and related items, like collection of meta data about phone calls.
You can watch the segment, if you missed it, on the CBS website:
For me, since I wrote a book a while back (Broken Web The Coming Collapse of the Internet ) the key part in the transcript of the report was the disclosure by the NSA of something called “The BIOS Plot”.
The pertinent part of the interview (from the transcript) was this:
“This is the BIOS system which starts most computers. The attack would have been disguised as a request for a software update. If the user agreed, the virus would’ve infected the computer. “
This is exactly the kind of internet nightmare I outlined in my book as a possibility: A virus that spoofs an update from Redmond or Cupertino and off goes the Internet. And what of all those counterfeit routers that were discovered a few years back?
And how many exploits have potential enemies found that even our best and brightest may have inadvertently baked into the cake? BIOS warfare remains, for now, one of those dark clouds on the horizon. But it’s out there and my sense is that it’s very important to follow it closely.
The other key part (about 9-minutes in) is the discussion about the damage done by Edward Snowden. And, in a refreshing change, the Agency is quite candid about what Snowden did, how he did it, and what it means. the Snowden “Keys to the kingdom” quote is at 11:18 in.
And now, there’s discussion of whether Edward Snowden should be offered amnesty – in return for bringing back all the lifted documents. But, as is discussed in the video, there are issues with that.
It’s a rare look at the “sharp point of the spear.” And while you and I may have (very deep) concerns about the possibility of infringements on America’s traditional liberties, the other side of it is that countries and “non-state” players exist who would end our way of life.
For exposing the “inside” perspective, agree with it or not, 60-Minutes got this one right.
China’s Moon Wander
Speaking of potential adversaries, down the road (if and when we stiff them on massive bond holdings) the second Biggie this morning is China’s adventuring on the Moon.
Not only does Chinese state media have pictures of their moon rover activities up through this link, but they have also have graphics like this one that explain what they’ve done.
While the US has been busy mothballing NASA, we sadly note that the Chinese have announced another follow-on to occur in 2017 when Chang’e-5 will be launched.
In a very pathetic sense, the US is in process of acceding the Moon to another country. Near as I can figure it, this is just one more reason than virtually no one in Washington deserves reelection. Time for a little more old-school Americanism: Lead, follow, or get out of the way.
Ever see a whole country forfeit its leadership role, like we have?
And, meantime, speaking of China: This from our news analyst fellow in Canada:
Dear Mr. Ure,
On Friday, “China Daily” outlined stated aims of the 2014 Central Economic Work Conference which included a drive for Chinese self-sufficiency in subsistence grains. One day earlier, the “Associated Press” reported the charging of six Chinese nationals by US prosecutors for allegedly stealing patented seed in Iowa.
The kissy-face on finance and the espionage in the back room – that’s the kind of thing that is being exploited in terms of developing American cognitive dissonance. Whether that’s “real” or merely an exploit, I’ll leave it to you to discern.
But check out this note on Chinese security improvements:
I wonder if a QKD through free-space realization means China could complete all space functions from domestic territory and forgo currently required ESA landlinks?
All of which is bad…very, very bad for our “independence” – or is that the plan and why cognitive dissonance is being planted? Again, for you to discern.
More after this…
Robotics & Productivity: Blessing and/or Curse
New figures are out from the Labor Department this morning on Productivity.
Nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased at a 3.0 percent annual rate during the third quarter of 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
The increase in productivity reflects increases of 4.7 percent in output and 1.7 percent in hours worked. (All quarterly percent changes in this release are seasonally adjusted annual rates.) From the third quarter of 2012 to the third quarter of 2013, productivity increased 0.3 percent as output and hours worked rose 2.1 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively. (See table A.)
Labor productivity, or output per hour, is calculated by dividing an index of real output by an index of hours worked of all persons, including employees, proprietors, and unpaid family workers. Measures released today were based on more recent source data than were available for the preliminary report.
Unit labor costs in nonfarm businesses decreased 1.4 percent in the third quarter of 2013, while hourly compensation increased 1.6 percent. Unit labor costs rose 2.1 percent over the last four quarters.
Now we’re into the squid here. This is exactly the kind of thing we’ve seen in our noodling on how robotics will eventually bankrupt the world if allowed to continue progressing untaxed.
At some point, robotics will end making everything and when that happens, there will be no basis left for compensating humans (pay for work or wages) and at that point, we will all have to work for the government and it will be their problem when the money to support the nation will come from.
Another way of thinking about this is “robot wars” are countries try to feed people without taxing human-replacement technology.
As luck would have it, someone other than Ures truly groks this: Boston Dynamics has just be acquired by Google says Gizmodo today.
Perhaps the strategic planners of today’s next-gen of business warfare ought to spend more time on the philosophy of football coaching. I say this because Jeff Bezo/Amazon is talking about drones for delivery, but Google is looking at ground-based robotics.
Like in classic football strategy, the air battle might lead to an occasional win, but trust the Old Coach hisself (sic): Football games are won and lost on the ground. Which is why Buffett does railroads and Google does robots. Amazon, fascinated by the air game, has put their distro centers near good airports.
One hell of a lot more interesting than the stuff on TV – because we can bet on it all nice and legal-like via the stock market.
Which, by the way, is looking to “Santa UP 100” today. (I’ll take a bow on behalf of our Peoplenomics Trading Model, somewhere in here…)
Maybe someone sees the new Fed figures on total consumer debt load which shows consumer debt steady and mortgage debt still declining in figures quietly out last week.
Industrial production will be out this morning and then tomorrow we get the CPI data, which is expected to be tame and remain that way until the rate rise or end of QEing comes along.
NZ, Gibraltar Quakes
As we roll into a possible year-end quake period, here’s a little 5.5 this morning off New Zealand:
Location with respect to nearby cities:
154 km (95 mi) WSW of Te Anau, New Zealand
186 km (115 mi) W of Invercargill, New Zealand
229 km (141 mi) W of Gore, New Zealand
240 km (148 mi) WSW of Queenstown, New Zealand
887 km (549 mi) SW of Wellington, New Zealand
Precursor? Ever wonder about the Strait of Gibraltar closing? What a movie plot, huh? There would be a fine economic crisis for you.
Way to Go Joe
The Daily Caller picture of Vice President Biden is just a tiny bit suggestive of a grope… we look for a full-scale investigation into reporter ticklishness to follow.
Did you read “Poll: Ted Cruz’ 3rd ‘most influential’ world leader behind pope, Obama.”? Well, that is if “some other person” presumably not listed, isn’t counted as a group, in which case fellow Texan Cruz would be # 4…which still, ain’t bad.
Hallelujah! No Hillary on the list. Thank you, Rasmussen!