Sunday, June 23, 2013

NSA Spying Aided by Open-Source Software

The National Security Agency has been using the top-secret program called PRISM to monitor online activity by accessing the servers of Internet companies.

The software the NSA uses is anything but top secret, however. The agency relies to an extent on open-source software — which makes the collection of computer instructions known as source code available to the general public with relaxed or nonexistent copyright restrictions.

"In this era of open-source software, the NSA gets direct access to the inventions of thousands of the smartest computer-science minds on the planet for free," Bloomberg Businessweek reports in an article headlined "Spies Like Us: How We All Helped Build PRISM."

Google created its own open-source software programs to collect and analyze data, and Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo! were among those that followed suit.

The NSA disclosed in 2009 that it was building a system based on Hadoop, a data processing software program that Google and Yahoo! had popularized, and set up its own open-source data mining project called Accumulo.

"Among the citizen coders who've contributed to the NSA effort are employees of Silicon Valley startups, cybersecurity firms, and federal contractors (you guessed it: Booz Allen Hamilton)," Businessweek disclosed.

Edward Snowden, who leaked information about the NSA's electronic surveillance program, worked for the technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

The article concludes: "When you hear about the NSA sucking up petabytes of information every hour, you can be sure that programs developed by your favorite Web companies are helping to power the effort."

Federal Employees Paid to Work for Unions

More than 250 employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs are being paid to work for government employee unions rather than veterans — even though the VA has a backlog of nearly 1 million unprocessed benefit claims.

These employees are on "official time," defined as "paid time off from assigned Government duties to represent a union or its bargaining unit employees," according to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Their salaries range from $26,420 to the $131,849 being paid to a nurse in San Francisco who represents the Nation Federation of Federal Employees.

Government workers on "official time" have office space at the agency that employs them, are paid for full-time work, and receive medical insurance and other fringe benefits, even though many are not required to show up at the agency, reports Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

The VA spent $42.5 million on official time in 2011, including salaries and benefits.

Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Rob Portman of Ohio sent a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki saying: "Documents show that your department recently employed at least 85 nurses, some with six-figure salaries, who were in 100 percent official time status. At the same time, the department is recruiting more people to fill open nursing positions."

But official time is not limited to the VA. The OPM reported that the federal government paid more than $156 million to workers on official time in 2011, up from $139 million in 2010.

Sen. Coburn told Furchtgott-Roth: "It is unacceptable for employees to spend 100 percent of their time away from the job taxpayers pay them to do."

The vast majority of campaign contributions from government worker unions go to Democrats, Furchtgott-Roth observed in an article for Real Clear Markets.

Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia has introduced a bill to limit official time, and in the Senate, Kentucky's Rand Paul has a bill that would completely eliminate it.

And these are the people Obama is supporing...

Syrian jihadists: "Anyone who curses the Prophet is killed immediately"

From Jihad Watch / Posted by Robert Spencer

How wonderful it is that we are giving military aid to these lovely people. "Syria: 'I saw rebels execute my boy for no more than a joke,’" by Richard Spencer in the Telegraph, June 21:
Mohammed Katta's mother witnessed the execution of her son in three stages. She was upstairs at home when she first heard the shouting. The people of the neighbourhood were yelling that "they have brought back the kid", so she rushed out of her apartment.
"I went out on my balcony," Nadia Umm Fuad said. "I said to his father, they are going to shoot your son! Come! Come! Come! I was on the stairs when I heard the first shot. I was at the door when I heard the second shot.
"I saw the third shot. I was shouting, 'That's haram, forbidden! Stop! Stop! You are killing a child.' But they just gave me a dirty look and got into their car. As they went, they drove over my son's arm, as he lay there dying."
Mohammed was 14 when he was killed, earlier this month, prompting international condemnation. He has become a symbol of the fears many Syrians have for the future of a country where jihadists are vying with the regime for control.
He is a counterweight – the comparison was Nadia Umm Fuad's – to Hamza al-Khatib, the 13-year-old from Deraa in southern Syria returned by regime troops to his parents battered, genitals removed, kneecaps smashed, burned and with three gunshot wounds, early in the uprising.
Mohammed was working at the family's coffee stall in the Shaar district of Aleppo when he made a fatal mistake. Pressured by a customer to hand over a coffee on promise of payment, he shouted good-humouredly: "I wouldn't give the Prophet Mohammed credit if he came here today." He was overheard by two men on the opposite corner. Marching over, they whisked him away in a car, ignoring his protestations of his love for the Prophet and the objections of a militiaman from the Free Syrian Army nearby. Half an hour later, they returned. According to Mohammed's younger brother and the neighbours, he was staggering and fell to his knees, and had clearly been beaten. A bag had been placed over his head.
"I heard them say, 'People of Aleppo and people of Shaar! Anyone who curses God is given three days to repent. Anyone who curses the Prophet is killed immediately'," Nadia Umm Fuad said....

So much for a boring summer for the stock market - we might actually have to go into the office. In the mean time, let's get straight to the "selling signal" charts we know you want to see after this week's stock market carnage.

S&P 500 Index Value vs Trailing Year Dividends per Share, 1 October 2012 Through 20 June 2013

This chart shows the most recent combination of microtrends that have existed since 15 November 2012 for stock prices with respect to their underlying trailing year dividends per share, which we're treating as if they were all a single trend by exploiting the fractal nature of stock prices. The one thing that should leap straight out at you is that the daily stock price for 20 June 2013 has fallen well below the "normal" range where we would expect stock prices to be if they were behaving, well, normally. And normally, we would take that as a signal to sell.

But aswe've shown previously, this may not be as clear a sell signal as we might hope. It might, after all, just be an outlier for the overall trend in stock prices, and stock prices might quickly go back to be within their "normal" range. And if that's the case, we would find ourselves in the situation where we sold far too soon, where if we chose to re-invest, we would have to buy back into the market at a higher price than where we exited it, effectively losing money in not being able to buy the same number of shares we once owned and of course, the transaction costs.

To avoid that potentially costly situation, we'll concern ourselves more with the trajectory of the 20-day moving average for stock prices, which we'll use as our true signal to sell. Here, if we see the 20-day moving average of the S&P 500's daily closing values drop below the normal range where we would expect stock prices to be if the trend were intact, that will be our more conservative signal to sell.

By doing this, we're trading a little bit of additional short term loss for the potential upside that stock prices might turn quickly around and resume following their previous trend. The important thing to remember though is that we might still be saving ourselves quite a bit of loss to the downside if we waited for a sell signal using the macrotrend (the microtrend in our first chart covers the area inside the purple rectangle on the macrotrend chart).

S&P 500 Index Value vs Trailing Year Dividends per Share, 30 June 2011 Through 20 June 2013

The key thing to remember about this method is that it works under limited circumstances, and applies only when we've had both generally rising stock prices and more importantly, generally rising dividends per share. Its primary purpose is to help minimize losses after an established trend has clearly broken down.

For what it's worth, we don't expect that we'll see the 20-day moving average for the S&P 500 move outside the "normal" range where we should expect it to be until the middle of next week at the earliest. So certain doom isn't imminent, it's just lurking around the corner.

A couple of days ago, we wrote up an analysis of why stock prices are behaving as they are and will, which we'll be sharing here on Monday, 24 June 2013 as events catch up to it. As least there's that to look forward to next week!...

Fine print matters -- a lot -- but if press reports of the Corker-Hoeven amendment are correct and the small print matches the large promises, this amendment would yield a Senate bill that I could applaud.

The increase in Border Patrol presence is fine, but it's no substitute for the fence. I agree with my friend Kurt Schlichter, who argues that, if we are about to hire 20,000 new Border Patrol agents, we should show preference for returning combat veterans. Since men and women leaving the downsized Army and Marine Corps already have the skills necessary to train for this difficult and often dangerous work, that preference should be part of the law.

Other small details could improve the bill. Schools impacted by newly regularized immigrants will need the sort of assistance that really matters to kids -- for example, infrastructure dollars to build sports facilities and salaries for coaches. Sport is the greatest assimilation energizer, and too many of these impacted districts will cut athletics while retaining administrative staff. If we want the newly regularized to join the American mainstream, putting them on the fields of competition will ameliorate the process. Two great examples that attest to this are the UNO system in Chicago (written about most recently by David Feith of the Wall Street Journal and AEI) and the Great Hearts Academies in Arizona (a public choice school system of which I am a board member). If the GOP is on its toes in the House, it will work hardest on the education provisions of the bill the Senate sends over, marking for itself the task of ensuring that newly regularized Americans on a path to eventual citizenship obtain the tools necessary to make the most of that citizenship.

But these potential House improvements are contingent on the Corker-Hoeven language concerning the fence. The billions spent on border security technology would be great, but this technology can't match the old-fashioned brick-and-mortar fence.

If Americans cannot see, touch and measure all 700 miles of the fence, it doesn't exist as promised, and a promise of a fence isn't a fence and shouldn't be a trigger. Seven hundred new miles is the magic number put forward in the Corker-Hoeven amendment, but that was the magic number in the 2006 bill, of which only 36 miles were built. Democrats are agreeing to the fence, so the language assuring its construction should be very, very specific, and the details of its design and location -- no more traffic barriers easily moved counting as fence-- must be spelled out. Impediments to quick construction like the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act should be cleared away  "notwithstanding any other law language" in the final bill. This is very easy to draft, and the quickest way to wreck the bill is to cheat on these provisions, but Senator Rubio is committed to the fence, and he knows many of his critics are looking for a reason to reject his efforts as inadequate. I am guessing they will be adequate, though the trigger will be green cards instead of regularization, a concession to Democrats.

Corker-Hoeven may have averted a train wreck, with Senators Schumer, McCain and Graham realizing that the only way to get the regularization they want is to build the fence the voters demand.

Anti-regularization forces will automatically say the amendment is not enough and that it is window-dressing. I was prepared to do the same yesterday when early reports suggested it was merely a press release and not a fence guarantee. If the fence isn't there or is ambiguous in its design or construction schedule, I'll be back in the "kill the bill" camp.

But for now it seems the Senate has successfully completed step one of immigration reform. It may be one step forward and two steps back when we see the actual language, but for the time being, I hope the GOP got one right. If it did, we can thank Marco Rubio.

One last thought: If a commission is needed to certify anything, name the commissioners in the bill and spell out their duties. Pick people who bring credibility to the table, and avoid confirmation battles and gamesmanship down the road. Spell. It. Out. If the majority and minority in both houses get two each, fine; let's have the eight names and their alternates as well. Nothing to chance, no chance for nothing.

Trust but verify, as the Gipper used to say. Congress promised 700 miles of fence seven years ago.

That's what the American people should keep in mind as the bill clears its first hurdle. That and the absolute need for real, lasting border security, the sort that cannot be turned off or redeployed -- the fence.

A hero NOT quite but a traitor NOT
By: Diane Sori

Obama is mad…furious is more like it…as the scandals plaguing his administration just keep coming but one in particular has ramifications for us all…for this president has, to put it bluntly, been spying on ‘We the People’.

Unbeknownst to the American public, under the banner of a program called PRISM, the National Security Agency (NSA) has had access to all our customer data logs, meaning all telephone calls we make and all e-mails we send, with the information being given to them by major (left leaning) internet companies that we all use, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, and Skype…in other words BIG Brother is indeed watching us…and his name is Barack HUSSEIN Obama.

And this is tantamount to violating our Fourth Amendment rights, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”.

And that is at the heart of these recent events.

Enter center stage Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor who just a few short weeks ago leaked information about this secretive surveillance program (including newly released leaks that NSA analysts can access the contents of a ‘target’s’ phone calls and e-mails without a court order), and true to form for crossing and angering ‘the anointed one’ Snowden has now been formally charged as Federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint of espionage against him, which included theft, ‘unauthorized communication of national defense information’ and ‘willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person’, as well as asking Hong Kong (where Snowden is suspected of still being) to detain him on a provisional arrest warrant.

The last two charges against Snowden were brought under the 1917 Espionage Act of which this White House is responsible for bringing six of the nine total indictments brought since the Act went into effect (and there have only been fourteen convictions for treason in the entire history of our country). But is Snowden actually guilty of espionage or treason as some claim, or is he really a hero for alerting the American people to yet more wrong doings by this administration…and that question will most likely decide his fate if he ever is brought back to or returns on his own to the United States.

And while Obama and those in his administration continue to defended PRISM and other programs in the same genre, claiming many terrorist plots have been thwarted because of them, that still does NOT give him or anyone else the right, whether it’s technically legal or NOT to spy on we law abiding citizens for there are some things that are NOT only unconstitutional but just plain morally wrong and this is one of them…but then again morals is something so lacking from this entire administration.

Now according to our Constitution treason, the only crime actually defined in the Constitution, is spoken of in Article III, Section 3: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attained.”

So is what Snowden did treason via espionage…NO I don’t think so as he has NOT levied war against the US, given aid and comfort to the enemy, nor does what he did pose an immediate or tangible danger to this country. In fact, what he did was quite the opposite as he alerted the American people to the immediate and tangible danger we are in at the hands of our own government and from our own president.

Also, the crime of treason requires a traitorous intent, which again he had NO intent for what Snowden did was ‘whistleblow’ on his corrupt employers and alert the public to acts perpetrated by those in power against ‘We the People’… that makes what he did a classic example of the definition of a whistleblower. And what really is a whistleblower but an informant who exposes wrongdoing within an organization in the hope of stopping it…and that is what Snowden did by going public with the information he had.

Now here’s the dilemma…in order to expose this contemptuous act by this administration Snowden had to ‘take’ the proof…steal it if you will…and stealing is indeed a punishable crime as is releasing confidential information he, when hired, agreed NEVER to do. But in a case such as this where the American public is actually the victims of a crime perpetrated on them by their own government…by their own president…does that excuse what he did, because what he did was for the common good.

And how are whistleblowers going to be able to prove their accusations unless they have real tangible in-hand documents to back up what they claim unless they ‘take’ them, because no one is going to voluntarily give them the documents needed.

And now with Snowden being both condemned as a traitor and lauded as a champion of ‘We the People’s’ right to privacy, the fact remains that America is still at war, and while we can criticize our government during a time of war, unless one adheres to the enemy one is NOT a traitor. And NOTHING Snowden did adheres him to any of our enemies for Snowden is being accused of ‘possibly’ passing information to China, and we are NOT at war with China for a state of war actually has to be levied against a country before there can be charges of treason made against anyone, and NO state of war has been levied by this country against China, hence NO adhering has been done to an enemy.

And anyway, to date there is NO proof Snowden has given China or any other nation classified information of any kind…just supposition put out by the media in an attempt to cover for and dilute the crime this president and his administration have committed by spying on the American people…done and gotten caught doing to be more exact. And let’s NOT forget how can Snowden be guilty of treason or espionage, let alone any crime, when both the NSA and Obama continue to claim they are NOT spying on us.

The bottom line in all this is that the right thing will always be that if our government is doing something illegal we have a duty to report it…and that is what Edward Snowden did when all is taken into account (albeit by breaking the law and stealing what wasn’t his), for what he did was expose serious Fourth Amendment violations knowingly and willing done by our government against the American people.

But because he broke the law to do what he did Edward Snowden might NOT be a hero per se, but he sure as hell is NOT a traitor…that distinction goes to our ‘aiding and abetting’ traitor of a president Barack HUSSEIN Obama.