A Metaphor for Obama’s second term

RobertShillerBloomberg

As US President Barack Obama begins his second term, he needs a simple way to express his vision and policies for the economy – a metaphor around which support for his policies might crystallize, thereby boosting his administration’s political effectiveness. So, what makes a successful metaphor work?

The 2008 Obama campaign used the slogan “Change we can believe in.” But “change” is not a metaphor for a new government: it does not stand for any policies. Nor does “Hope” or “Yes we can..!”

By contrast, in the 1930’s, President Franklin Roosevelt used a metaphor that remains very much alive today. The idea of a “new deal” was conceived during his first presidential election campaign in 1932, though at the time he was still very vague about what the term stood for…

The metaphor, overwhelmingly endorsed by voters, stood for Roosevelt’s mandate to fix the ailing economy along lines that were innovative but still essentially capitalist. Some of his administration’s initiatives, such as the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, seemed anti-business to some at the time, but have long since been accepted as a boon to competition and dynamism by hemming in unfair or manipulative behavior…

Americans do not want more government per se; rather, they want the government to get more people involved in the market economy. Opinion polls show that, above all, what Americans want are jobs – the beginning of inclusion…

The biggest successes of Obama’s first term concerned economic inclusion. The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is providing more people with access to health care – and bringing more people to privately-issued insurance – than ever before in the United States. The Dodd-Frank financial reforms created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, so that privately issued financial products would serve the public better, and created incentives for derivatives to be traded on public markets. And he signed the JOBS Act, proposed by his Republican opponents, which aims to create crowdfunding Web sites that allow small investors to participate in start-up ventures…

The right metaphor would spin some of these ideas, or others like them, into a vision for America’s future that, like the New Deal, would gain coherence as it is transformed into reality. On January 29, Obama will give the first State of the Union address of his new term. He should be thinking about how to express – vividly and compellingly – the principles that have guided his choices so far, and that set a path for America’s future.

Robert Shiller is an eminent economist. A scholar who works hard at trying to get at the truth – and then get that truth out to the public where it may be of some use. The investment community thinks of him as primarily concerned with that portion of the US economy engaged in home-building and housing. But, believe me, catch him on any topic sometime on Bloomberg TV – and you’re in for an enjoyable and stimulating examination of whichever portion of the world’s economy he’s focused on.

Nokia – “Yes, we decrypt your HTTPS data, but don’t worry!”

Nokia has confirmed reports that its Xpress Browser decrypts data that flows through HTTPS connections – that includes the connections set up for banking sessions, encrypted email and more. However, it insists that there’s no need for users to panic because it would never access customers’ encrypted data.

The confirmation-slash-denial comes after security researcher Gaurang Pandya, who works for Unisys Global Services in India, detailed on his personal blog how browser traffic from his Series 40 ‘Asha’ phone was getting routed via Nokia’s servers…

However, it was Pandya’s second post on the subject that caused some alarm. Unlike the first, which looked at general traffic, the Wednesday post specifically examined Nokia’s treatment of HTTPS traffic. It found that such traffic was indeed also getting routed via Nokia’s servers. Crucially, Pandya said that Nokia had access to this data in unencrypted form:

“From the tests that were preformed, it is evident that Nokia is performing Man In The Middle Attack for sensitive HTTPS traffic originated from their phone and hence they do have access to clear text information which could include user credentials to various sites such as social networking, banking, credit card information or anything that is sensitive in nature…”

In a statement – “Nokia has implemented appropriate organizational and technical measures to prevent access to private information. Claims that we would access complete unencrypted information are inaccurate.”

To paraphrase: we decrypt your data, but trust us, we don’t peek. Which is, in a way, fair enough. After all, they need to decrypt the data in order to de-bulk it…

UPDATE: A kind soul has reminded me that, unlike Xpress Browser and Opera Mini, two other services that also do the compression thing leave HTTPS traffic unperturbed, namely Amazon with its Silk browser and Skyfire. This is arguably how things should be done, although it does of course mean that users don’t get speedier loading…on HTTPS pages.

If you live on the same planet with the United States government, the NSA and Congress – trust no one!

Junior Seau had brain disease from blows to the head

Junior Seau, one of the NFL’s best and fiercest players for two decades, suffered from a degenerative brain disease often associated with repeated blows to the head when he committed suicide last May, the National Institutes of Health said in a study released Thursday.

The NIH, based in Bethesda, Md., said Seau’s brain revealed abnormalities consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. It said that the study included unidentified brains, one of which was Seau’s, and that the findings on Seau were similar to autopsies of people ‘‘with exposure to repetitive head injuries.’’

Seau’s family requested the analysis of his brain.

The star linebacker played for 20 NFL seasons with San Diego, Miami and New England before retiring in 2009. He died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound.

He joins a list of several dozen football players who were found to have CTE. Boston University’s center for study of the disease reported last month that 34 former pro players and nine who played only college football suffered from CTE…

The NFL faces lawsuits by thousands of former players who say the league withheld information on the harmful effects of concussions. According to an AP review of 175 lawsuits, 3,818 players have sued. At least 26 Hall of Famer members are among the players who have done so.

Seau is not the first former NFL player who killed himself, then was found to have CTE. Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling are the others.

Dr. Russell Lonser, who oversaw the study, said Seau’s brain was ‘‘independently evaluated by multiple experts, in a blind fashion.’’

‘‘We had the opportunity to get multiple experts involved in a way they wouldn’t be able to directly identify his tissue even if they knew he was one of the individuals studied,’’ he said.

The profit-making side of the sport is guilty in a couple of ways. They have known about concussion danger for decades and did next to nothing. I knew one physician who worked for the NFL for a spell back in the 1980’s and she told me the head injuries she encountered were worse than anything she encountered in any big city emergency room on Saturday night.

Cripes. I don’t know what the numbers are nowadays; but, BITD the pension plan used to kick in for NFL veterans at age 55. There was a very good reason for that – courtesy of actuaries who work for those humanist guardians of our lives, the insurance companies. The average lifespan, then, for ex-NFL athletes was 54. When the rest of us were living a decade-and-a-half longer.

And then there are the schmucks who tailor and tweak the rules from year-to-year to keep the show up to gladiator standards – presuming that fans can never see enough head-to-head contact.

I have no sympathy for the club-owners and officials who will poor-mouth the courts. No less guilty than the corporate creeps who earned their living from asbestos or tobacco.

$5.8 million settlement granted Iraqis tortured in Abu Ghraib

Iraqi prisoners who allege they were tortured in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq are being paid $5.8m by the subsidiary of a US defence contractor accused of complicity in their mistreatment.

The money will be paid to 71 former detainees of Abu Ghraib and other US-controlled detention centres in Iraq, and is the first time that prisoners have received money from a US defence contractor active in Iraq.

The claims were made against L-3 Services, which provided linguists and interrogators to the US military in Iraq, many of whom were used at Abu Ghraib. L-3 Services is a subsidiary of Virginia-based Engility Holdings, which was spun off from L-3 Communications, a major government contractor and Fortune 500 company which employs more than 50,000 people and had a turnover of more than $15 billion in 2011…

The payments, which were made two months ago, were revealed in a document Engility filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that went unnoticed until published by the Associated Press…

The lawsuit, which was originally filed in Greenbelt, Maryland, in 2008, alleged that L-3 Services “permitted scores of its employees to participate in torturing and abusing prisoners over an extended period of time throughout Iraq”. It stated that the company “wilfully failed to report L-3 employees repeated assaults and other criminal conduct by its employees to the United States or Iraq authorities…”

…Engility was quoted saying it did not comment on legal matters and Baher Azmy, a lawyer for the former prisoners, said there was an agreement to keep the details of the settlement secret. Another contractor, CACI, is expected to go on trial for similar allegations later this summer.

Private military contractors played a serious but often under-reported role in the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib,” said Mr Azmy, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “We are pleased this settlement provides some accountability for one of those contractors and offers some measure of justice for the victims.”

Private contractors were widely used by the US and other countries in Iraq instead of regular military personnel. They were deeply unpopular with Iraqis and the Iraqi government was eager not to grant them any form of legal immunity when the US was trying to negotiate keeping a force of US troops in Iraq past the final pullout date in 2011.

US courts are still dealing with the question of whether contractors in a war have immunity against being sued.

Mail me a penny postcard when our papier nache politicians own up to the criminal behavior perpetrated in the name of the American people in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Geneva Accords mean nothing to Pentagon practice since Dick Cheney and George W signed off on everything from torture to private contractors.