Monthly Archives: August 2015

Who is your IT outsourcing firm working for?

by Robert Cringely, published July 30, 2015

outsourcing-for-dummies-300x300While the U.S. Government has been remarkably opaque about the recently discovered security breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), we know that personal information on at least 21.5 million present, former, and prospective federal employees was lost. The Feds claim Chinese hackers are at the bottom of it, which is disputed by the Chinese government. This, to me, raises a number of questions, especially about the possible role of IT outsourcing firms and implications for organizations beyond OPM. Does IT outsourcing make your data more vulnerable? Yes, I believe it does.

It’s easy to blame the Office of Personnel Management for its own troubles. Oversight was lax. The agency failed a security audit and didn’t seem to do much in response. When shit hit the fan and it became clear that the identity of almost every living person associated in any way with Federal employment had been compromised, the agency lamely offered 18 months of identity theft screening but then didn’t have the money to pay for it. Pathetic. Both the Obama Administration and Congress are to blame, the former for mismanagement and the latter for “starving the beast” by limiting the OPM budget, pushing the agency toward cost-saving decisions that at least to some extent led to the current crisis.

And a crisis it is. The scope of this hack is mind-boggling. There are 4.5 million Federal employees yet the identities of at least 21.5 million people are involved. How can that be? Well just to give one example, every person with a federal security clearance has to file annually (this seems to vary from agency to agency — see comments below) a 120-page Standard Form 86 updating information about their every social and business contact. All of those Standard Form 86s — millions of them — were stolen. Given that we live in a world of Big Data and six degrees of separation, it’s logical to assume that with some effort nearly every U.S. adult has been compromised in some way by this theft, whether or not you know that Uncle Jim used to be a courier for the CIA.

This is way worse than Target or Home Depot, yet those stories lingered in the press for months while OPM seems already to have disappeared.

Continue reading Who is your IT outsourcing firm working for?

IBM is so screwed

by Robert Cringely, published July 21, 2015

I’ve been working on a big column or two about the Office of Personnel Management hack while at the same time helping my boys with their Kickstarter campaign to be announced in another 10 days, but then IBM had to go yesterday and announce earnings and I just couldn’t help myself. I had to put that announcement in the context you’ll see in the headline above. IBM is so screwed.

Below you’ll see the news spelled-out in red annotations right on IBM’s own slides. The details are mainly there but before you read them I want to make three points. First, IBM’s sexy new businesses (cloud, analytics, mobile, social and security or CAMSS) aren’t growing — and probably won’t be growing — faster than its old businesses are shrinking and dying. This doesn’t have to be. IBM could carefully invest in some of those older businesses and become a much better company and investment.

Second is something that doesn’t immediately fall out of these slides but I think it should be said: from what I hear IBM’s analytics sales (the very essence of its Big Data strategy) have been dismal. Nobody is buying.

And a third point that could be an entire column in itself is that Google’s two latest cloud announcements (support for Windows Server and broad release of its Kubernetes container manager) effectively blow out of the water IBM’s nascent cloud operation.

Continue reading IBM is so screwed

The Evidence Keeps Pouring In: Capitalism Just Isn’t Working

by Paul Buchheit, published August 24, 2015 at Common Dreams

capitalism_by_jonny_white
(Photo: Jonny White/cc/flickr)

To followers of Ayn Rand and Ronald Reagan, and to all the business people who despise government, ‘community’ is a form of ‘communism.’ Even taking the train is too communal for them. Americans have been led to believe that only individuals matter, that every person should fend for him/herself, that “winner-take-all” is the ultimate goal, and that the winners have no responsibility to others.

To the capitalist, everything is a potential market. Education, health care, even the right to water. But with every market failure it becomes more clear that basic human rights can’t be bought and sold like cars and cell phones. The pursuit of profit, when essential needs are part of the product, means that not everyone will be able to pay the price. Some will be denied those essential needs.

Global Failures

Capitalism hasn’t been able to control runaway global inequality. For every $1.00 owned by the world’s richest 1% in 2011, they now own $1.27. They own almost half the world’s wealth. Just 70 of them own as much as 3.5 billion people.

Capitalism has not been able — or willing — to control the “race to the bottom” caused by “free trade,” as mid-level jobs continue to be transferred to low-wage countries.

Continue reading The Evidence Keeps Pouring In: Capitalism Just Isn’t Working

Barack Obama: A Free-Market-Loving, Big-Spending, Fiscally Conservative Wealth Redistributionist

By DAVID LEONHARDT, published August 20, 2008, in the New York Times

Obamanomics

I. A Broken Economy

 

24Obamanomics-t_CA0.650
Tim Davis for The New York Time

As Barack Obama prepares to accept the Democratic nomination this week, it is clear that the economic policies of the next president are going to be hugely important. Ever since Wall Street bankers were called back from their vacations last summer to deal with the convulsions in the mortgage market, the economy has been lurching from one crisis to the next. The International Monetary Fund has described the situation as “the largest financial shock since the Great Depression.” The details are too technical for most of us to understand. (They’re too technical for many bankers to understand, which is part of the problem.) But the root cause is simple enough. In some fundamental ways, the American economy has stopped working.

The fact that the economy grows — that it produces more goods and services one year than it did in the previous one — no longer ensures that most families will benefit from its growth. For the first time on record, an economic expansion seems to have ended without family income having risen substantially. Most families are still making less, after accounting for inflation, than they were in 2000. For these workers, roughly the bottom 60 percent of the income ladder, economic growth has become a theoretical concept rather than the wellspring of better medical care, a new car, a nicer house — a better life than their parents had.

Continue reading Barack Obama: A Free-Market-Loving, Big-Spending, Fiscally Conservative Wealth Redistributionist

Bernie Sanders versus Obama & the Clintons: The Big Difference

by Eric Zuesse, published August 22, 2015 on Washington’s Blog 

I state here why I have come to support Bernie Sanders for President: Whereas Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — the modern Democratic Establishment — have been so conservative they might as well have called themselves “conservative” (and they didn’t say it because they needed to be able to win Democratic Party primaries), Sanders’s record shows that he isn’t like that at all; he’s an authentic democrat, and always has been, even when he didn’t call himself one (but only a “Progressive,” and a “socialist — like in Scandinavia”). I don’t care what a politician calls himself or herself, only what the person actually is, as the person has proven to be by the actual record as a public official.

The entire careers of Bernie Sanders, versus Barack Obama and both Bill and Hillary Clinton, display a stark difference. Whereas Obama and the Clintons were trying to win the votes of Democrats while secretly supporting Republican policies to redistribute even more wealth upward from the public to the aristocracy (and they did so) (and how!), Sanders has consistently been trying — and helping — to do the exact opposite: to redistribute wealth downward, from the aristocracy to the public. Taxes, and all of government policies, are inevitably  wealth-distributional (who pays how much, and who gets how much of the benefits; and what benefits pay needs, versus what benefits pay mere wants). Any politician who says that government isn’t largely about the distribution of wealth, knows that what he is saying is false — he or she is lying about government. (Only their suckers can believe it.) The question isn’t whether government should redistribute wealth; it’s how. That’s reality, and every public official knows it.

THE VIEW HELD BY OBAMA & THE CLINTONS:

Lawrence Summers was the leading economist for both of the Clintons, and also for Obama; and one of the reasons they chose him was that he agreed with them that the richer a person is, the better the given person tends to be. Summers shared their money-elitist values. (They secretly despise the poor.)

Continue reading Bernie Sanders versus Obama & the Clintons: The Big Difference

The Biggest Scandal in US History That We’re Still Not Talking About

published August 18, 2015 at The Daily Kos

Pentagon_Money_lost

The above is roughly what 8.5 Trillion dollars would look like… and those are $100 bills. Take another look and let that sink in for a bit… I find it absolutely astonishing that the pentagon could lose track of this much money and for there to be no MSM coverage of this scandalous amount of mismanagement and fraud. Where is the demand for accountability? Why is the first question to ANY candidate for president not “What would you do about the massive fraud and waste at the Pentagon?” Where are the hearings, nay indictments, that are warranted when a sum equal to 1/2 of our national debt can be sent to the pentagon to never be accounted for. More below.

 

We progressives need to work this scandal into every political conversation we engage in, especially when we talk to conservatives. Cutting government spending and accountability aresupposed to be core GOP values.

Combine “Known” Pentagon waste (like the 1.5 Trillion dollar F35) with missing pentagon money and you have a good chunk of our entire national debt represented.

“What’s that?  Body cameras for all cops will be too expensive?  How bout we find 1/10,000th of the money we sent to the pentagon.”

“Oh really?  There’s 500 million in provable food stamp fraud going to poor people how bout the 8.5 TRILLION the pentagon can’t account for?”

Continue reading The Biggest Scandal in US History That We’re Still Not Talking About

Behind the Pentagon’s doctored ledgers, a running tally of epic waste

by Scot J. Paltrow, Reuters, published on November 18, 2013

pentagon2a
MILES OF AISLES: At the Defense Logistics Agency’s giant storage facility outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, lack of reliable information on what’s there makes it hard to throw out excess inventory. REUTERS/TIM SHAFFER

Part 2: For two decades, the U.S. military has been unable to submit to an audit, flouting federal law and concealing waste and fraud totaling billions of dollars

LETTERKENNY ARMY DEPOT, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania – Linda Woodford spent the last 15 years of her career inserting phony numbers in the U.S. Department of Defense’s accounts.

Every month until she retired in 2011, she says, the day came when the Navy would start dumping numbers on the Cleveland, Ohio, office of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Pentagon’s main accounting agency. Using the data they received, Woodford and her fellow DFAS accountants there set about preparing monthly reports to square the Navy’s books with the U.S. Treasury’s – a balancing-the-checkbook maneuver required of all the military services and other Pentagon agencies.

And every month, they encountered the same problem. Numbers were missing. Numbers were clearly wrong. Numbers came with no explanation of how the money had been spent or which congressional appropriation it came from. “A lot of times there were issues of numbers being inaccurate,” Woodford says. “We didn’t have the detail … for a lot of it.”

The data flooded in just two days before deadline. As the clock ticked down, Woodford says, staff were able to resolve a lot of the false entries through hurried calls and emails to Navy personnel, but many mystery numbers remained. For those, Woodford and her colleagues were told by superiors to take “unsubstantiated change actions” – in other words, enter false numbers, commonly called “plugs,” to make the Navy’s totals match the Treasury’s.

Jeff Yokel, who spent 17 years in senior positions in DFAS’s Cleveland office before retiring in 2009, says supervisors were required to approve every “plug” – thousands a month. “If the amounts didn’t balance, Treasury would hit it back to you,” he says.

Continue reading Behind the Pentagon’s doctored ledgers, a running tally of epic waste

When $8.5 Trillion is Chump Change

by David Swanson at Washington’s Blog, published on August 20, 2015

Three cheers for Reuters pointing out that the Pentagon can’t explain what it did with $8.5 trillion that taxpayers gave it between 1996 and 2013.

Three trillion cheers for a blogger who is pointing out that this fact renders many other concerns ludicrous, and recommending that people bring it up at every opportunity:

“What’s that? Body cameras for all cops will be too expensive? How about we find 1/10,000th of the money we sent to the Pentagon.”

“Oh really? There’s 500 million in provable food stamp fraud going to poor people how about the $8.5 TRILLION the pentagon can’t account for?”

“Oh really? You think Obamacare is going to cost us almost a trillion dollars over 15 years? How about the 8.5 Trillion that just disappeared into the ether at the Pentagon? What’s your take on that?”

“Oh really, you’re concerned about deficit spending and the debt? Fully 1/3 of the national debt is money we sent the Pentagon and they can’t tell us where it went. It’s just gone.”

“College for everyone will cost too much? You must be really pissed at the 8.5 Trillion, with a ‘t’, dollars the pentagon’s spent and can’t tell us where it went.”

This is all very good as far as it goes, whether you like the body cameras or corporate health insurance or other items or not. We could add an unlimited number of items including some expressing our concern for the other 96% of humanity:

Continue reading When $8.5 Trillion is Chump Change

The Other March on Washington

by Howard Brick & Christopher Phelps, published on August 18, 2015 at Jacobin 

As Nazism was challenged abroad, A. Philip Randolph led an uncompromising campaign for democracy at home.

randolph-2
A. Philip Randolph. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Please be informed that I am ready to serve in any unit of the armed forces of my country which is not segregated by race,” wrote Winfred Lynn to his local draft board in 1942 after learning of his conscription into the United States Army.

The thirty-six-year-old landscape gardener from Jamaica, Queens, New York City, loathed Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan but vowed to go “to prison or to die, if necessary, rather than submit to the mockery of fighting for democracy in a Jim Crow army.”

Only when his lawyers concluded that his case against the Selective Service would be stronger were he in uniform did Lynn submit to conscription. He saw duty in the Pacific, made the rank of corporal, and watched his case reach the Supreme Court, which declined to hear it on January 2, 1945, dashing what one black newspaper, proclaiming Lynn the “Hero of World War II,” termed “the most important legal battle to challenge segregation in the armed forces.” Only the Second World War’s end in 1945 brought him an honorable discharge and the outcome he had sought for three long years: freedom.

Worrying that Lynn’s stance was too radical, even unpatriotic, the nation’s leading civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), had declined to support his case. His first attorney was his younger brother, Conrad Lynn, who had been expelled from the Communist Party in 1937 for supporting Trinidadian workers’ strikes, contrary to the Party’s conciliatory Popular Front line.

Continue reading The Other March on Washington

Why Bernie Sanders Should Add a Job Guarantee to His Policy Agenda

by Naked Capitalism, published August 18, 2015

By Pavlina R. Tcherneva, Assistant Professor of Economics at Bard College, Research Scholar at The Levy Economics Institute, and Senior Research Associate at the Center for Full Employment and Price Stability. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

Discussions of the ‘politically possible’ always remind me of a favorite quote: “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.”

Bernie Sanders’ issues page reads like a list of everything we’ve been told is not politically possible.  And yet he’s getting record breaking support, precisely because people are tired of being told that something cannot be done–that it is impossible to get money out of politics, or that tackling inequality and racial injustice is unrealistic, or that securing a living wage is a political nonstarter.

Bernie has unapologetically rejected sclerotic visions of what is ‘politically possible’.  And now he should add the Job Guarantee (JG) to his list of issues. Indeed, he already has the key ingredients—a bold proposal to eliminate unemployment by creating 13 million decent-paying jobs, a living wage, and a federally-funded youth job guarantee, which Sandy Darity correctly called a stepping stone (a pilot program) to a blanket job guarantee for all.

The Job Guarantee’s time has come.

  • It secures a basic human right
  • It tackles at least three key sources of “economic violence and injustice”—unemployment, precarious work, and poverty wages
  • It is good for families, the economy, the environment, and our communities

Here’s what you need to know about the JG.

The Job Guarantee Is Not Big Government

A common misconception of the JG is that it is a large and unpredictable program, echoed by Matt Bruenig in a recent post:

“The size of the workforce on the JG will greatly differ across the business cycle … Because the JG workforce should theoretically turn over a lot and shrink a lot, work valuable over the long run is ruled out.”

Continue reading Why Bernie Sanders Should Add a Job Guarantee to His Policy Agenda