|From: S. maltophilia||6/7/2021 10:28:12 AM|
Buying crypto? Watch out for these 100 problems
By Brian Livingston
People in the tech industry tend to find cryptocurrency very attractive as a concept. After all, crypto coins are totally digital — there are no paper bills or metallic coins to handle — and you can transfer these “digicoins” to anyone in the world, instantly (in theory).
The reality is that digital money is prey to all kinds of hacks and cons. Many people have lost their life savings because they converted their hard currency into crypto and got hacked. Bad actors used one security flaw or another to transfer the victims’ funds to themselves.
Allow me to give you some guidance that can hopefully help you avoid scams while you hold crypto, if you have a specific reason to do so.
Blockchain is the new Pet Rock, Hula Hoop, and Beanie Baby
Talking about cryptocurrencies always gets around to the concept of a blockchain, so we might as well get clear on what that means. (See Figure 1.)
Figure 1. A public blockchain is an uneditable, digital record of every transaction (block of data) that has ever occurred. A private, redactable blockchain might have virtual “padlocks” to allow the removal of certain transactions. Source: Accenture
A public blockchain is an unchangeable, widely distributed digital ledger that preserves all transactions (blocks) in the order in which they occurred. Different blockchains have been set up for bitcoin, ether, dogecoin, and many other crypto coins.
A private blockchain might be limited to authorized users, such as the employees of a company or a nonprofit organization. Such a blockchain could be redactable, allowing authorized admins to correct errors or reverse transactions. A technique for editable ledgers with digital “padlocks” between data blocks has been proposed by consulting firm Accenture and Stevens Institute of Technology professor Giuseppe Ateniese in a PDF.
A blockchain being uneditable doesn’t mean it’s secure. For example, a Swiss-registered investment pool called The DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) raised $160 million through ether in May 2016. On June 17 of that year, a hacker transferred $50 million to himself. To steal that much ether, he wrote code that avoided sending messages to the system about the number of tokens he was moving (see Phil Daian’s analysis of the code):
if (p.splitData.newDAO.createTokenProxy.value(fundsToBeMoved)(msg.sender) == false)
Because of The DAO’s 28-day waiting period, the theft could be mostly reversed, but only by a so-called hard fork: an entirely new blockchain that excluded the hacked transactions. Under The DAO’s “consensus” model, however, approximately 15% of the voting stakeholders refused to accept the fork. This created two separate blockchains, each with its own coins: the reborn Ethereum and Ethereum Classic, as explained by the Brave New Coin blog.
The split allowed the thief to keep a few million dollars’ worth of ether, at least temporarily. By the end of 2016, DAO tokens had been delisted by major crypto exchanges. The US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) ruled in July 2017 that DAO’s offering was an illegal, unregistered security. The effort folded soon thereafter, as described in a Medium article.
As far as corporate ledger chains go, “Private blockchains are completely uninteresting,” says Bruce Schneier, a noted cryptographer and a board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Consensus protocols have been studied in distributed systems for more than 60 years,” he adds. “The only reason to operate one is to ride on the blockchain hype.”
Most people will never set up a blockchain. But millions of people are using cash and credit cards to transfer their hard currencies, such as dollars and euros, into crypto coins. Do those digital currencies have problems? I’m glad you asked.
Crypto is just code, and code can be hacked
Cryptocurrencies do serve at least one legitimate need. Individuals sent $715 billion across international boundaries to relations in other countries in 2019, according to World Bank estimates. But the old-line service is dominated by Western Union, MoneyGram, and RIA. Remittances can take up to five business days, and the average transaction fee is 7.45%. The fee can be 15 points higher for remittances to some African countries, a 2018 EU report says.
Crypto remittance services can be faster and charge lower fees. Local offices routinely convert coins into the recipient’s local currency. But whether or not you make cross-border transfers, it’s important to know that holding crypto for long exposes you to certain risks.
Steve Wozniak (left), a co-founder of Apple — and a tech-savvy individual, by all accounts — recently had seven bitcoins stolen from him, at a time when his coin collection was worth approximately $70,000.
What super-sophisticated hack was capable of separating Wozniak from his valuable digital assets?
Nothing sophisticated at all. “Somebody bought them from me online through a credit card, and they cancelled the credit-card payment,” he said at the 2018 Global Business Summit in New Delhi, sponsored by The Economic Times of India.
“It was that easy! And it was from a stolen credit-card number, so you can never get it back,” he added. Just try telling a credit-card telephone rep that you sent virtual currency to someone, somewhere, and you want it returned.
(Department of Happy Endings: On December 4, 2020, Woz used the Singapore-based HBTC crypto exchange to sell his own token, WOZX. The offering raised $950 million in the first 13 minutes of trading, a huge increase from its $80 million starting valuation. To avoid SEC regulation, buyers couldn’t use US crypto exchanges, according to a Yahoo Finance story.)
You don’t have to be an Apple legend to get your crypto coins stolen, of course:
Apps transfer crypto to hackers. iPhone user Philippe Christodoulou downloaded from the Apple Store a “Trezor” app to manage his bitcoins on a special USB digital wallet he’d purchased from the Czech manufacturer Trezor. He blames Apple for distributing the fake app, which immediately stole $600,000 worth of his bitcoins. According to a Washington Post story, the app was downloaded from the Apple Store around 1,000 times between January 22 and February 3, 2021. Apple spokesperson Fred Sainz says, “Study after study has shown that the App Store is the most secure app marketplace in the world.” It isn’t just the Apple Store. Coinfirm, an anti-money-laundering service, told the Post that it knows of three Android users who’ve lost a total of $600,000 from phony “Trezor” apps, in addition to five iOS users who’ve lost $1.6 million. You can’t even trust crypto that’s given away for free. A common scheme involves crypto groups offering a few coins “for nothing.” These promotions are known as crypto airdrops. Beware! Promoters may ask you to enter your email address, a bank-account number, a password, or — worst of all — the private key to your crypto wallet, exposing you to a total loss. Twitter user Voland04 tracked or participated in hundreds of airdrops over a six-month period, reporting in 2019 that only a dozen or so paid the promised tokens and “only about 5 have real value.” Cryptocurrency scams have grown 1,000% in 12 months. The reported losses by Americans alone due to crypto crimes totaled more than $50 million in the first quarter of 2021. That’s 10 times more than the same period one year earlier, according to a Federal Trade Commission report.
“For every legitimate business online, there are probably five scammers out there trying to act like they are someone they are not,” says David Johnson, CEO of crypto startup Latium.
The magic beans you buy may mysteriously vanish in a rug pull
The most outrageous scams involve companies that set up a new blockchain, create a website to promote the related coin, hire social-media celebrities to flog it, collect millions of dollars of hard currency from excited buyers — and then disappear with the money.
Crypto bloggers call these vanishing acts rug pulls. That’s shorthand for “having the rug pulled out from under you.” But coin boosters avoid using a much simpler term: rip-offs.
Fairmoon, called a “fair community crypto” (symbol: FAIR), lost 96% of its value on May 18, 2021, when insiders vanished with millions of dollars’ worth of tokens. As I write this, FAIR is trading for only $0.0006 (six one-hundredths of a US cent), but there hasn’t been a single trade in days. The coin’s organizers had thoughtfully hired the head of a prominent anti–rug-pull movement as an auditor, but he was immediately accused by the promoters of pulling the heist himself, according to an Investor Place article. The developers of Compounder Finance (CP3R) disappeared with more than 10 million dollars’ worth of crypto on December 1, 2020. The CP3R token had hit a peak of $80.18 on November 24, three days after its launch. But the price was sucked down to $0.55 by December 3, a loss of 99%, says a CoinDesk story. In this case, an auditing team named Solidity Finance had tweeted on November 19 a link to a report mentioning that the CP3R code “doesn’t provide full protection.” The developers used that very opening. The tweet and the report have been deleted. Only a chat log PDF about the audit remains online. The CEO of Turkey’s largest crypto exchange flew to Albania with $108 million. Some 400,000 Turkish users had transferred their money to the Thodex exchange to escape the lira’s 16% annual inflation rate. After the April 23 theft, Turkish authorities detained 83 people connected with Thodex, including the CEO’s brother and sister, according to a News Binding article. At this writing, the CEO’s whereabouts are still unknown. More than 80% of “initial coin offerings” (ICOs) are outright scams. Just considering coins that had a market capitalization (total invested) of $50 million or more, 81% were complete frauds, according to a 2018 study by Satis Group. Another 11% of ICOs did exist but failed to ever get listed on any crypto exchange. The remaining 8% managed to get to the listing stage, but only 2% could be categorized as “successful.” The smaller a coin’s market cap, the worse its likelihood of success. Over 400,000 fraudulent crypto websites existed in 2020. After scanning 300 million sites, fraud-prevention firm Bolster determined that hundreds of thousands of them featured fake celebrity endorsements, “double your money” rebates, and other cons. A 75% increase to 700,000 such sites is expected this year. The phony pages include the likenesses of Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk, the Gemini Trust’s Winklevoss brothers, and other boldface names, according to a Business Wire press release. (See Figure 2.) No, celebs such as Musk don’t know which coins will go “to the moon.” American hip-hop star Soulja Boy accidentally revealed on May 26 that he would be paid $24,000 by a new crypto called SaferMars. The payoff would come if the coin raised $240,000 via the rapper’s tweeting favorably about it to his 5.2 million followers, the Coinfomania blog revealed. The money may not be worth it. The SEC has levied punitive fines of $150,000 to $600,000 on actor Steven Seagal, boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., music producer Khaled Khaled, and others for promoting various digicoins without revealing their incentives.
Figure 2. This FAKE website, which is NOT authorized by the Gemini Trust or the Winklevoss brothers, looks real. But the site instructs you to send crypto coins to a hacker’s wallet, and the Gemini Trust will supposedly transmit DOUBLE that amount back to your account. Yeah, right. Source: Bolster
How to guarantee that a crypto investment won’t con you
I wish I could say there’s a foolproof method to ensure that a purchase of cryptocurrency is legitimate and safe. But I can’t. There are simply too many ways that promoters of a virtual currency can — to coin a phrase — pull the rug out from under you. If I told you, “XYZ is fine,” some scandal or rip-off would quickly make a liar out of me. Sorry.
We’re in the snake-oil, Wild West days of virtual currencies. In the late 1990s, companies could add “dot-com” to the end of their names, and their shares would immediately rise 100% on a stock exchange. Today, social-media celebrities just saying “our new coin is going to the moon” is enough to get starry-eyed true believers to pour their hard-earned hard currencies into the latest shiny bauble. (At least gold coins, which are also shiny, actually exist and will always retain some value.)
There are several legitimate crypto exchanges, of course. But if you find one that you feel sure of, please follow the same rule that you’d use with any other speculative investment: risk only a small amount of “play money” that you wouldn’t really mind losing.
|Do you know a secret that we all should know? Tell me about it! I’ll keep your identity totally confidential or give you credit as you prefer. Send your story via the Public Defender tips page. |
The PUBLIC DEFENDER column is Brian Livingston’s campaign to give you consumer protection from tech. If it’s irritating you, and it has an “on” switch, he’ll take the case! Brian is a successful dot-com entrepreneur, author or co-author of 11 Windows Secrets books, and author of the new book Muscular Portfolios. Get his free monthly newsletter.
| ||Join the conversation! Your questions, comments, and feedback about this topic are always welcome in the AskWoody Lounge! |
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: Broken_Clock||6/7/2021 1:59:55 PM|
|Now that Covid and Trump are in the rear view mirror and fading...the box score isn't looking too good for Mr. "Gain of Function" Tony "the Godfather of Covid" Fauci.|
Fauci and Daszak need to be front and Center in a Senate hearing and then placed in a deep, dark hole.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: S. maltophilia||6/8/2021 1:36:21 PM|
|1999 was downright quaint compared to this:|
From a Bloomberg Money Stuff email
|MoviePassMoviePass had maybe the greatest business model of the 2010s venture capital boom. The model was:|
You paid MoviePass $10 a month.In exchange, you could see as many movies as you wanted, in theaters.MoviePass had no particular deals with the movie theaters; it just went out and bought whatever tickets you wanted at retail prices.The retail price for a movie ticket was about $10. If you saw more than one movie a month — as you probably did, if you bothered to sign up for this service — MoviePass lost money on you. But MoviePass supposedly collected data! Data is valuable! I don’t know.This all worked out extremely poorly, as you’d expect — MoviePass shut down in 2019 and its parent company filed for bankruptcy in 2020 — but it also became legendary. “ The Entire Economy Is MoviePass Now,” Kevin Roose of the New York Times said in 2018: Real-world services (car rides, food delivery, movie tickets) were being provided below cost by nominally “tech” companies, funded by venture capitalists who were flush with cash and valued user growth above all else. If you sell $20 worth of movie tickets for $10, people will sign up, you will have rapid user growth and you can probably get someone to think that that’s valuable, even though in fact every user that you add costs you $10.
But — unlike most of the “MoviePass economy” — MoviePass was not actually a venture-funded startup, did not raise piles of money, and was somewhat constrained by economic reality. So at some point the company looked for ways to make this insane business model work, and it found one. It’s pretty simple: What if MoviePass collected your $10 each month and then, when you asked it for movie tickets, it ignored you? Then it could keep collecting your $10 a month without spending money on tickets. Eventually you’d get annoyed by not getting what you paid for, and you’d try to cancel your membership and get your money back, but MoviePass could ignore that too and keep collecting the $10. Giving people unlimited movie tickets for $10 a month is a good way to get rapid customer growth; telling people you’ll give them unlimited movie tickets for $10 a month, but not actually doing it, is a way to pivot to profitability.
When I describe it like that it sounds bad, but it was actually much worse! The way MoviePass ignored its customers was by changing their passwords so they couldn’t log into their accounts. Here’s a passage from a 2019 Insider article about MoviePass and its chief executive officer, Mitch Lowe, which we discussed at the time:
Per Lowe's orders, MoviePass began limiting subscriber access ahead of the April release of the highly anticipated "Avengers: Infinity War," according to multiple former employees. They said Lowe ordered that the passwords of a small percentage of power users be changed, preventing them from logging onto the app and ordering tickets.So part of me admires the gumption, sure, but that seems like … super-duper fraud? But here’s a U.S. Federal Trade Commission action from yesterday:
The operators of the MoviePass subscription service have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations they took steps to block subscribers from using the service as advertised, while also failing to secure subscribers’ personal data.They really changed people’s passwords so they couldn’t use the service, and their punishment is that they have to promise not to do it again. The complaint is madness:
Under the proposed settlement, MoviePass, Inc., its parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics, Inc. (Helios), and their principals, Mitchell Lowe and Theodore Farnsworth, will be barred from misrepresenting their business and data security practices. In addition, any businesses controlled by MoviePass, Helios, or Lowe must implement comprehensive information security programs.
“MoviePass and its executives went to great lengths to deny consumers access to the service they paid for while also failing to secure their personal information,” said Daniel Kaufman, the FTC’s Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC will continue working to protect consumers from deception and to ensure that businesses deliver on their promises.”
In its complaint, the FTC alleges that MoviePass, Inc.—along with its CEO, Lowe, as well as Helios and Farnsworth, CEO of Helios—deceptively marketed its “one movie per day” service promised to subscribers who paid for its $9.95 monthly service. ...
According to the FTC, MoviePass’s operators invalidated subscriber passwords while falsely claiming to have detected “suspicious activity or potential fraud” on the accounts. MoviePass's operators did this even though some of its own executives raised questions about the scheme, according to the complaint.
Under Respondents’ password disruption program, Respondents invalidated the passwords of the 75,000 subscribers who used the service most frequently while claiming that “we have detected suspicious activity or potential fraud” on the affected subscribers’ accounts. …They had formal business meetings about this, where they discussed the pros and cons of hacking their users’ accounts:
The password disruption program impeded subscribers’ ability to view movies because MoviePass’s password reset process often failed. … Indeed, when discussing the password disruption program, a MoviePass executive acknowledged that subscribers using a common smartphone operating system would encounter technical difficulty in resetting their passwords.
When subscribers attempted to contact MoviePass’s customer service about their inability to reset their MoviePass passwords, Respondents often responded weeks later or not at all.
On April 11, 2018, an employee of Respondent Helios, writing from Farnsworth’s personal email address and expressly “on behalf of Ted [Farnsworth]” to Lowe and others, proposed a notice that informed subscribers that their account passwords were required to be reset due to “suspicious activity or potential fraud.”Bizarrely, MoviePass settled without paying a fine — apparently due to a recent Supreme Court decision limiting the FTC’s ability to extract money for stuff like this — and one FTC commissioner dissented even from making them promise not to do it again.
Lowe circulated the proposed notice to MoviePass executives for comment and personally ordered subscribers’ passwords to be disrupted in accordance with this plan. Lowe also personally chose the number of consumers who would be affected by the program. …
When Lowe and Farnsworth presented the disruption program to other executives of Respondent MoviePass, one executive warned that the password disruption program “would be targeting all of our heavy users” and that “there is a high risk this would catch the FTC’s attention (and State AG’s attention) and could reinvigorate their questioning of MoviePass, this time from a Consumer Protection standpoint.” (Emphasis in original).
Another executive agreed, warning of “FTC Fears: All [the other MoviePass executive’s] notes about FTC and PR [public relations] fire are my main concerns as I think the PR backlash will flame the FTC stuff.” (Emphasis in original).
In response to these concerns, Lowe responded, “Ok I get it. So let[’]s try this with a small group. Let[’]s say 2% of our highest volume users.”
Respondents MoviePass and Lowe tracked the effect of password disruption on subscribers’ use of the service. For example, Respondents MoviePass and Lowe found that only one-half of affected subscribers had successfully reset their passwords one week after they executed their plan.
Coincidentally, today Kevin Roose has a Times column about how the venture-subsidized MoviePass economy has disappeared and companies like Uber now charge almost the full cost of their services:
There is still plenty of irrationality in the market, and some start-ups still burn huge piles of money in search of growth. But as these companies mature, they seem to be discovering the benefits of financial discipline. Uber lost only $108 million in the first quarter of 2021 — a vast improvement, believe it or not, over the same quarter last year, when it lost $3 billion, and both it and Lyft have pledged to become profitable on an adjusted basis this year.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)|
|To: S. maltophilia who wrote (435870)||6/8/2021 2:20:34 PM|
|does that mean I should sell my house and buy Bitcoin?|
"To capture the financial reality of the richest Americans, ProPublica undertook an analysis that has never been done before. We compared how much in taxes the 25 richest Americans paid each year to how much Forbes estimated their wealth grew in that same time period.
We’re going to call this their true tax rate.
The results are stark. According to Forbes, those 25 people saw their worth rise a collective $401 billion from 2014 to 2018. They paid a total of $13.6 billion in federal income taxes in those five years, the IRS data shows. That’s a staggering sum, but it amounts to a true tax rate of only 3.4%.
It’s a completely different picture for middle-class Americans, for example, wage earners in their early 40s who have amassed a typical amount of wealth for people their age. From 2014 to 2018, such households saw their net worth expand by about $65,000 after taxes on average, mostly due to the rise in value of their homes. But because the vast bulk of their earnings were salaries, their tax bills were almost as much, nearly $62,000, over that five-year period."
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: Broken_Clock||6/10/2021 10:20:04 PM|
|New president...new allies!|
"A PBS Frontline special is the latest vehicle in a PR campaign to legitimize rebranded Syrian al-Qaeda, HTS, and market its leader Mohammad Jolani as a competent American “asset.”
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: Broken_Clock||6/11/2021 12:22:17 PM|
|Business as usual for the fascists|
Trump DOJ Obtained Data on Schiff and Swalwell, Two Long-Time Champions of Domestic SpyingThe two California Democrats join the long list of politicians who enable spying on ordinary citizens, then angrily object when they themselves are targeted.
: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) (L) and committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) return to a closed-door hearing at the U.S. Capitol March 06, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The Trump Justice Department in 2017 and early 2018 issued subpoenas to Apple to obtain the communications records of at least two Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA). According to The New York Times, DOJ prosecutors attempting to determine who leaked classified information to the media about Russiagate suspected the two House Democrats were the culprits, and to prove that, they obtained their communications records as well as those of family members, including minor children.
A DOJ leak investigation aimed at sitting members of Congress is highly unusual. Both the Obama and Trump administrations, in a hunt for leakers, created controversy by obtaining the communications records of journalists, including — in the case of the Obama DOJ — the family members of those journalists. But investigating members of the House Intelligence Committee for leaking crimes — as opposed to corruption or other standard criminal charges — can present different dangers. Neither Congressman was charged with any crimes and the investigation reportedly bore no fruit.
The two House Democrats, among the most fanatical disseminators of baseless Russiagate conspiracies and long known to serve as anonymous sources of leaks to liberal media outlets, reacted with predictable outrage. “This baseless investigation, while now closed, is yet another example of Trump's corrupt weaponization of justice,” Schiff intoned on Thursday night. As difficult as it is, Swalwell, as he often does, found a way to be even more melodramatic than Schiff: “Like many of the world’s most despicable dictators, former President Trump showed an utter disdain for our democracy and the rule of law.”
Investigating possible crimes — such as leaking classified information — is the job of the Justice Department. To accomplish that, FBI agents and prosecutors often obtain personal communications records about their suspects. But invading the communications records of journalists, as both the Obama and Trump DOJ did, can create serious threats to press freedom and the possibility of abuse and retaliation. The same is true for invading the communications records of members of the legislative branch, particularly ones hostile to the president. An investigation is certainly warranted to determine the propriety of these subpoenas.
But like so many politicians before them, Schiff and Swalwell have zero credibility to object to this targeting. When it comes to ordinary Americans, both have been long-time champions of expanding domestic spying powers and blocking efforts at reform designed to curb abuses of the type they claim took place here.
From the start of the Trump administration, Schiff and Swalwell were among the lawmakers most shrilly depicting Trump as some sort of Nazi-like figure bent on fascistic control of the United States. Yet their actions were sharply at odds with that cable-friendly rhetoric, as they repeatedly voted to preserve and expand the military budget, war powers and spying authorities of the New Hitler.
Perhaps the most relevant example was a 2018 amendment introduced by then-Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), the long-time privacy advocate who had repeatedly sought to rein in the U.S. Government's domestic spying powers and impose safeguards as a way to curb abuses. Amash's amendment was part of a bill to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the NSA to spy on the communications of American citizens without a warrant as long as it can claim that their target is a foreign nation and that they only “incidentally” listened in on the calls or read the emails of citizens.
That 2008 law was enacted with bipartisan support to retroactively legalize the clearly illegal Bush/Cheney program of warrantless domestic surveillance. That law also authorizes the FBI to search NSA-collected communications of Americans without a warrant for use in its criminal investigations.
Amash's 2018 amendment was designed to prevent those abuses and rein in the power of the Executive Branch to spy on Americans. Its key provision was that it “required federal law enforcement agents [including those with the DOJ/FBI] to get a warrant before searching NSA data for information on Americans.”
It appeared that Amash had secured enough GOP votes to ensure passage of his reform bill. Fifty-seven House Republicans — part of the anti-spying wing of that party — announced their intention to support Amash's bill. Had the 193-member House Democratic caucus delivered its votes for Amash's amendment, it would have passed, and the U.S. Government's spying powers could have finally been reined in, with meaningful safeguards imposed.
Instead, then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced her opposition to Amash's amendment. She then convinced just enough of her caucus — fifty-five members — to join with the GOP majority to defeat Amash's bill. Among those who joined with Pelosi and the pro-spying wing of the GOP led by then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) were Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell. In other words, while they were basking in the adoration of MSNBC and CNN hosts for calling Trump a dictator, they were joining with Pelosi and the GOP Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, to ensure that no limits were imposed on Trump’s powers of domestic spying.
Had Schiff and Swalwell been concerned at all with the privacy rights of ordinary citizens, they would have joined with the majority of Democrats in supporting Amash's bill. They sided with the U.S. security state (and the Trump White House) against the rights of ordinary Americans. When reporting on this repellent act, I wrote under the headline: “The Same Democrats Who Denounce Donald Trump as a Lawless, Treasonous Authoritarian Just Voted to Give Him Vast Warrantless Spying Powers.”
So stunningly craven was this vote from Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell that they were denounced even by the ACLU, which, during the Trump years, rarely criticized Democrats. Though not calling them out by name, the group clearly referred to them and others when expressing indignation about how the same Democrats who claimed to find Trump so dangerous just ensured the defeat of a bill that would have limited his powers, along with those of future Presidents, to abuse the government's spying powers against U.S. citizens.
The privacy group Electronic Frontiers Foundation described the bill that ultimately passed this way: “the House just approved the disastrous NSA surveillance extension bill that will allow for continued, unconstitutional surveillance that hurts the American people and violates our Fourth Amendment rights.” Meanwhile, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) praised the Republicans who voted to rein in spying powers even under Trump — an effort that would have succeeded if not for the pro-surveillance treachery of Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell — and pointedly asked:
Ro Khanna @RoKhanna
When @justinamash & @VoteMeadows, chair of the freedom caucus, vote against surveillance, but scores of Democrats vote for it, then its fair to ask what does our party stand for? If we can’t be unified around the principle of civil liberties, then what is the soul of our party?
January 11th 2018
753 Retweets1,936 Likes
Thus do we have Schiff and Swalwell joining the ranks of a shameful club: politicians — usually California Democrats — who cheer for and empower the spying state when they think it will be used only against ordinary Americans, but not important and upstanding figures such as themselves. They then become indignant when they learn that they themselves were targeted with the spying powers they enabled.
In 2009, another long-time pro-surveillance California House Democrat, Rep. Jane Harman, learned that her private communications with an Israeli government agent had been intercepted by NSA wiretaps as she was plotting to pressure the DOJ to reduce the criminal charges against two AIPAC officials. She was absolutely furious to learn of this, telling MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell:
I call it an abuse of power…. I'm just very disappointed that my country — I'm an American citizen just like you are — could have permitted what I think is a gross abuse of power in recent years. I'm one member of Congress who may be caught up in it, and I have a bully pulpit and I can fight back. I'm thinking about others who have no bully pulpit, who may not be aware, as I was not, that someone is listening in on their conversations, and they're innocent Americans.What Harman forgot to mention during her angry rant was that she had spent years — as the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and Homeland Security subcommittee — doing everything possible to defend, justify and expand the powers of the U.S. security state to spy on ordinary Americans. Like Schiff and Swalwell, she was delighted to see ordinary serfs spied on by their own government, and discovered her passion for privacy rights only when it was her conversations that were monitored.
Exactly the same thing happened with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, yet another California Democrat who has long been one of the most stalwart defenders of the NSA and CIA. Feinstein, whose oligarchical husband made tens of millions as a military contractor, spent years as one of the security state's most loyal allies. She has been at the center of virtually every increase in NSA spying powers over the last several decades. Even in the wake of the Snowden reporting, she was fighting to preserve and even increase NSA domestic spying powers, vowing to block any reform efforts.
Yet in 2014, Feinstein learned that the CIA under then-Director John Brennen was spying on her and her Committee as it investigated the CIA's interrogation programs. And, like Harman before her and Schiff and Swalwell now, she was furious about it, demanding an investigation and warning: “this is plainly an attempt to intimidate these staff and I am not taking it lightly.” As Snowden himself put it at the time after expressing concerns over the Brennan-led CIA's spying on the Senate:
It's equally if not more concerning that we're seeing another “Merkel Effect,” where an elected official does not care at all that the rights of millions of ordinary citizens are violated by our spies, but suddenly it's a scandal when a politician finds out the same thing happens to them.And, needless to say, Feinstein, Schiff and Harman were all leading voices in maligning and demanding the prosecution of Snowden for blowing the whistle on the domestic spying abuses they supported against ordinary Americans. These political elites view revelations of illegal spying on ordinary Americans as a crime, but revelations of spying on themselves as a noble journalistic act that require immediate investigations and mass outrage.
NBC News, Mar. 11, 2014
There are few attributes more contemptible in a politician than placing themselves above the citizenry they are supposed to be serving, believing that they themselves should be immune and protected from the burdens they impose on ordinary Americans. That this DOJ investigation of Schiff and Swalwell was baseless or abusive may turn out to be correct: time will tell.
But few people have less credibility to express indignation over such spying abuses than these two House members. After playing such a vital role in ensuring that ordinary citizens are vulnerable to these vast and unrestrained surveillance systems, they now want everyone to denounce those same powers since they are the purported victims this time rather than the perpetrators.
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|From: Broken_Clock||6/11/2021 1:54:14 PM|
|a sobering reality(caveat: my home is 100% PV powered but still requires propane for cooking[a by product of the Oahu refinery])|
Column: Norway’s hydrocarbon consumption shows stark reality of energy transition – even for the filthy rich January 12, 20215:02 AM Terry Etam 13 Comments
For a long time, decades, when the world thought of oil they thought of Saudi Arabia or the Middle East. That made sense. The Middle East that brought ultra-cheap oil to the world, and it’s colourful cast of characters enjoyed jerking the economic world around by running out onto their royal balconies and shouting ‘Oil prices must go up’ or ‘Oil prices must go down’ or ‘We’re still thinking but we are going to do something big and we’ll get back to you’. An ever-thirstier world, high on petroleum, was held captive by these OPEC declarations. Wars were fought to ensure access to oil. Brutal government regimes around the world were deposed or supported, depending on their position in the petroleum chess match.
Fast forward to today. The word ‘oil’ itself is incendiary, and a very odd character has bumped Saudi Arabia off its perch as the world’s most interesting petroleum state. For a number of reasons, Norway has become the epicentre of oil talk.
With a population of about 5 million, it is shocking how much of oil’s narrative centers on Norway. One of the biggest reasons is that the country is at the forefront of the ‘energy transition’, at least with respect to electric vehicles, and nothing captures the world’s attention like that topic. But Norway is also, if anyone reads the fine print, perhaps the best example of how challenging that transition is going to be.29dk2902l
The Norwegian elephant in the room, the point that no one can ignore, is that those 5 million citizens are wealthy beyond belief. You think Saudi Arabia is wealthy? Last year, Saudi Aramco borrowed money to pay the dividend to the state to keep the wheels turning. Norway has over a trillion dollars in its savings account. Saudi Arabia has 34 million citizens, Norway 5. Those Norwegian citizens own 1.4 percent of global stocks and shares through the national sovereign wealth fund.
When the Saudis were in a similar position decades ago, they looked at their pile of cash and thought, you know what we really need here is a solid gold toilet. After that, how about a diamond-encrusted Mercedes, and a thirty-foot high version of a Dodge Power Wagon that weighed 50 tons and has a four-bedroom apartment inside.
The Norwegians were slightly more modest; they looked at their money mountain and decided to go green.
Now, the optics of that move require some careful explanations and finely-tuned bravado. It is not easy explaining to the world’s poorer countries (i.e., all of them) that Norway is lighting the path for others on the green trail with that trillion dollars of oil money greasing the way. The managers of that sovereign wealth money periodically make dubious, vainglorious stabs at righteousness by informing the world that those petro-dollars will not be dirtied by investing in foreign petro-companies (despite the fact that Norway actively continues offshore oil exploration). Everyone looks at them like they farted at the dinner table, so they move on to the next best plan – the EV revolution.
In 2020, Norway boasted that “Electric cars rose to a 54 percent market share”, up from about 45 percent in 2019. Another article noted that “Electric vehicles could finally be reducing Norway’s oil consumption”.
Here’s the catch, though. That latter article, about EVs finally reducing Norway’s oil consumption, was from 2018, referencing 2017 data. Furthermore, the same article noted that April 2018 total petroleum consumption was 10.9 percent higher than April 2017, and pure auto consumption was 3 percent higher.
It is true that gasoline consumption has finally started falling. From 2017 to 2019, motor gasoline consumption fell by about 8 percent. But this is as the headline EV market share rose from 20 percent to 45 percent.
There are, of course, other factors at play. Norway’s population rose by about 2 percent 2017-2020, but road traffic volumes also decreased by just over 1 percent 2018-19. There is a whole master’s degree in the data involved.
From a high level though, one statistic seems worth focusing on: From 2017-2019, total sales of petroleum products decreased by only 3.3 percent, while EV market share more than doubled from 20 percent to 45. From 2015-2019, total sales of petroleum products decreased by about 6 percent, while EV market share nearly tripled.
Norway makes it very, very attractive to buy an EV. Cities and bigger towns offer free parking. Tolls are reduced by at least half, and sometimes more. EVs are exempt from both road taxes and a 25 percent European VAT. Company EVs receive substantial tax breaks. Norway has 9 percent of the total charging stations in Europe, despite making up only 0.7 percent of the population.
Further cementing Norway’s role as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the green world, 96 percent of Norway’s power comes from hydroelectric, and 98 percent is from renewables (the two percent jump is largely geothermal).
This whole show is the result of Norway being one of the richest nations in the world. Oil money underpins everything, and the government uses a firehose to spread it over green initiatives.
And still, despite all that, total petroleum consumption has fallen by only six percent from 2015 to 2019.
And that’s not all. Norwegians themselves are starting to say “enough”. Resistance to new on-shore wind power is so strong that one government consultancy sees no new onshore wind projects being built before 2034; another says no more will be built ever. Opposition comes from startling sources also: those lined up against more wind power include the Socialist Party, the Green Party, and the Liberals.
Since everyone loves holding Norway up as an example of the green path forward, let’s make sure and look at that whole picture. The challenge of reducing hydrocarbon consumption in any significant way is daunting beyond belief. You may hear otherwise, but when the wealthiest, most hydro-rich, green-mandated country can’t reduce consumption faster than this, no one else is going to either.
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