Last week several of the ‘BIG’ banks – you remember, the ones that are too big to let go bust – were fined in the region of $5.7 billion for illegal manipulation of the currency markets.
The usual suspects were included, J P Morgan, Citibank, Barclays and RBS all pleading guilty – but only after they were sure what the medicine they would be getting would be.
It’s a huge amount of money, there’s no denying that. And losing it will make the banksters hurt a bit. But only a bit.
And that’s the problem.
Yet again the United States government has failed to bring these criminals to justice after more of their deliberate fraud and theft.
In other words, they let them get away with it AGAIN!
Now, if I walk into a branch of, for example, Citibank and try to steal the money that their customers have deposited with them for safe-keeping, I would be videoed, photographed, and if I was lucky enough to get out of the premises, pursued by the police and even the FBI for as long as it took to capture me.
And I couldn’t have any complaints because that’s the way it should be. Thieves should be sought out, captured and after due process thrown into jail.
However, if I am a bankster, have good government contacts, and ply money and favors to those in government, then I am treated very differently.
I can embark on insider trading (which is essentially what the banksters were doing when they were illegally manipulating the currency markets), I can sell loans to people that clearly can’t afford them, then take their houses away or sell on their debt wrapped up in a ‘AAA’ bundle to my richer customers, and after all that steal even more of the money my customers have entrusted to me by awarding myself and my collaborators big bonuses that none of us have earned or are entitled to.
In this scenario am I pursued by the police and FBI?
Am I thrown in jail to be the bitch of Skull-cracker Jones or Scarface Smith?
Will I have to personally pay back the money I stole?
So what will happen to me if I am a bankster?
At worst I will get a slap on the wrist and told not to do it again. Even though recent history has proved that this is no deterrent and I will do it again at the first opportunity I get.
And, of course, I don’t have to personally pay the government’s fine no matter how big it may be. Instead my company has to cough up on my behalf.
Not that the company is much bothered either because when it runs out of money it goes back to the government which hands it back at least the value of the fine and usually much, much more.
Apple and Google recently enabled full-device encryption by default on their mobile operating systems – and big brother doesn’t like it – not one bit. As always he talks about things like ‘National Security’, ‘terrorist threats’, etc., and that there will be total chaos in the streets if ordinary citizens are allowed their right to privacy.
Some of the stuff that has hit the media has been ridiculous and would be laughable except these idiots are actually intent on total control.
For example, the head of the FBI has issued dire warnings of children dying if ordinary people are allowed their privacy via encryption programs. The secretary of Homeland Security used the deaths of the 168 people killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing as ‘proof’ that, while privacy was important, encryption should not be allowed to stymie US law enforcement.
Big Brother wants to stick his nose into EVERYTHING. Anything that makes that harder to do frustrates the hell out of him.
So he continues with the stupid excuse that the necessity to snoop on law abiding people is because criminals and terrorists might use encryption tools as well.
It’s a bit like saying that no one should be allowed to drive a car because someone, somewhere, sometime, might get drunk and cause a fatal accident.
Then there’s the EnnEssEhh director who wants mandatory “front doors” to be built into all cryptographic technology used in the U.S., so that you can’t have secrets it can’t spy on. His idea is for all encrypted software and hardware used in the U.S. to have one encryption key for the user (you) and another that would be made available to the government bureaucrat spooks any time they wanted it.
This is complete nonsense. And they know it. But still they persist.
They have already got the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which removed the right of a purchaser to use their goods as they see fit. This legislation means that digital products continue to be the property of the seller – not (you) the buyer who paid for them. And it makes it illegal for buyers of digital goods to circumvent any features that allow snooping.
Going back to my car analogy, that is like a car dealer selling you a car on the condition that you never open the hood to see how it works, or perform your own modifications.
In practical terms this means that if you buy a new phone or computer, the manufacturer can have a spy device pre-installed in its hard components or its software and you would be forbidden by law from finding out about it or fixing it.
If Big Brother thinks he can enforce stupidity like this then he is even crazier than I think he is – and I think he is completely crazy already!
Big Brother can legislate all he wants, but we all know that the only people who will abide by these new laws will be the law abiding people. The criminals and terrorists will find ways round it, through it, over it, or under it.
It’s the same flawed logic as in the continued cry from liberals to take legally registered guns away from law abiding people so that only the criminals are armed.
Then there is, not the probability – but the FACT – that if a government spook friendly encryption system was created, it would immediately be attacked by hackers – including hackers employed by foreign governments, some of them friends of the terrorists that the legislation is supposed to be there to defeat.
And what about the practical commercial aspect to it all? When you think about it, who in their right mind is going to pay good money for an encryptiuon system that they know can be broken?
Would you buy an expensive lock if someone else had the key?
One thing that America and Americans have always been noted for is their generosity to the less fortunate. Billions of dollars have been donated over the years to one good cause or another. It is a record to be proud of.
Now, however, it seems that the idiot bureaucrats are going to take even that away.
Now it is apparently a crime to feed the homeless.
To emphasize the point, 90 year old Arnold Abbot, who has been preparing and distributing food to the homeless in Ft Lauderdale, Florida for more than two decades, is now deemed to be committing an illegal act and has been arrested for his charitable work.
It’s all because some morons, in government jobs, paid for by the taxpaying public, and who have never themselves been homeless, decided that feeding the poor is no longer to be tolerated.
Abbott and two South Florida ministers, pastors Dwayne Black and Mark Sims, have been arrested as they served up food. They were charged with breaking an ordinance restricting public feeding of the homeless. Each faces up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Fort Lauderdale is the latest U.S. city to pass restrictions on feeding homeless people in public places. In Orlando, a similar ordinance requires groups to get a permit to feed 25 or more people in parks in a downtown district.
Advocates for the homeless say that the cities are fighting to control increasing homeless populations, but simply passing ordinances does not solve the problem, it just pushes it into someone else’s back yard.
It all smacks very much of bureaucratic stupidity. Leave the disease unchecked and concentrate on legislating for the symptoms.
If the government is willing to waste time and money making criminals out of those who wish to feed the homeless, why can it not use its resources to try to grips with the root causes of that homelessness and do something about it.
The US is $18 trillion in debt, and counting, but if government money can be found to give to foreign countries to alleviate hardship, why can money not be found to alleviate the same hardship in the homeland?
I’ve never been homeless and I don’t want to know what it’s like. But a lot of ordinary people hit hard times and lost their homes thanks to the theft and fraud perpetrated by the banksters whose greed created the property crash.
Many billions of dollars were given to these crooks by the government to bail them out, money that was then gambled away or stuck in the banksters own pockets in the form of ‘bonuses’ they did not earn nor deserve.
Thankfully ordinary citizens are coming to the aid of Arnold Abbot. He has received public statements of support and even some financial contributions this Christmas past to assist with his helping the homeless.
I doubt, however, if the bureaucrats are finished with him, after all, who better for cowards like them to pick on than a 90 year old man?
I wonder who is right and who is wrong? Let’s check the real rule book…
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,
40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
We all know that one of Steve Jobs favorite things was selling people well designed goods at vastly over inflated prices. People who were obsessed by having the latest gimmicks, bought his stuff in droves at whatever price Jobs put on them and in the process made Apple one of the richest companies in the world.
That’s what you call business, not quite ethical perhaps, but if you can get away with it and you can find people who are silly enough to pay far too much for your goods then why not?
What the creation of this ‘new’ market also did was spawn clones or look-a-likes from companies wanting to cash in on the windfall initially created by Apple.
Many of these are quite legitimate, like the Samsung Galaxy models which have become just as popular as the iPhones and are just as good, if not better, IMHO.
But what has also happened is that the same success has spawned a series of non-legitimate clones – from China – which look the same and provide many of the same functions, although the build quality as with much of the junk emanating from China is very poor.
So, getting back to the question posed in the title of this post, if you are thinking of buying yourself a smart phone – and you are also thinking of saving a bit of money and buying one of those iPhone or Samsung Galaxy look-a-likes from China – think again.
This week a German firm called ‘G Data’ (which has a US subsidiary) released information that a popular brand of Chinese-made smart phone, the ‘Star N9500’, which is sold internationally by several major retailers, including Amazon.com, has been found to contain pre-installed monitoring software – that’s spy software to you and me.
G Data said it discovered the spy software hidden deep inside the proprietary software found on the Star N9500, which is a cheap smart phone based on the popular Samsung Galaxy S4.
The hidden software contained within the phone’s operating system includes applications that could allow a third party to access and steal the telephone user’s personal information.
There are also secret applications that could permit a hacker to place calls from the telephone, or utilize the device’s microphone and camera without the consent of its owner.
And malware like this can not only allow hackers to access the telephone, but also any computers connected to it.
It was also discovered that the stolen data was being sent to a server based in, where else, China.
Adding to the intrigue, G Data’s team of experts and several journalists tried for “over a week” to track down the manufacturer of the Star N9500 by contacting several companies located in China’s southern province of Shenzhen, known as the center of the country’s telecommunications industry, but were unable to do so.
This isn’t the first time hidden spyware has been discovered in the operating software of telecommunications hardware made in China, and it probably won’t be the last.
But don’t get completely paranoid just because you read this post or other articles like it.
Just realize that the convenience that this latest technology provides, also provides criminals (which includes spying governments, you listening ennn esss ey?) easier access to your personal information.
There’s a famous quote from US President Abraham Lincoln that goes something like, “you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time”.
On the face of it Lincoln’s words seem rather clever and profound – and true. And so they are.
Up to a point.
But what Lincoln didn’t say (and he was a politician after all) is that you don’t have to fool ALL of the people ALL of the time.
What you have to do is fool them long enough to do what you need to do – for example, in the case of a politician, to get yourself elected.
Which brings me to statistics.
Because the best people in the world at playing with statistics are politicians and governments.
Some people believe everything they are told. Others call the figures governments produce ‘disingenuous’ which is being very kind. And some don’t believe a word or a number that they produce. (Take a wild guess at which camp I am in.)
Government statistical results are in effect lies. You can’t call them that – although I just did – because they can find figures to back up what they say, it’s just that they choose the figures that tell the story they want to promote and ignore all the rest that tell a different story.
For example, to get on to one of my favorite rant subjects, there is a thing which I am sure most of you have never heard of called the ‘Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program’ or ‘SIGTARP’ for short.
When the government is challenged about what is has been doing to bring to justice the banksters, who stole and recklessly gambled away our money, they can quote you a statistic or two saying that over the last few years, SIGTARP has put over 100 senior bank executives in jail, each of whom was convicted of stealing from taxpayers.
Although that fact is ‘technically’ or ‘statistically’ true, what they don’t tell you is that the people they have gone after and convicted are all small time crooks, guilty of small time frauds that are seldom above $1m or $1.5 million in value.
All the super crooks who embezzled hundreds of $ billions and almost brought down the entire financial system aren’t even being seriously pursued. More than six years into the SIGTARP investigations there are literally still hundreds of billions of outstanding ‘loans’, from banks including Citi, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America.
They can quote figures all day long to try to mislead the people and make themselves look good, but a few small time crooks thrown in jail for stealing a million or two dollars here and there isn’t ever going to make much of a dent in the $ billions that were stolen. The politicians know that as well as anyone.
Perhaps Mark Twain’s “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics,” might have been a better quote!
Many stupid crimes happen every day. And most of them are committed by stupid criminals.
Unfortunately most of the stories we never get to hear about, but occasionally we do.
Like this one, which must rank as one of the dumbest ever!
It happened in a place called Mullins, SC. The perpetrator, or would-be perpetrator, was a ‘genius’ called Laquain Deshawn Guy and he had the idea that he would rob an Arby’s fast food restaurant.
Lots of cash in there, he thought, not considering that most of the takings would be banked at the end of business.
That was his first mistake.
His second was failing to break into the restaurant using either a back door or a window.
No, this genius had a better idea.
He thought he would climb on to the roof of the building and gain entrance through the ventilation shaft. That is the story told by Captain Joe Graham with the Mullins police and I see no reason at all to doubt him.
The main reason being that criminal mastermind Laquain Deshawn Guy found to his surprise that he didn’t fit the ventilation shaft – and promptly wedged himself in there just as tight as he could.
The more he struggled the worse it got.
Man, was he stuck!
And he remained stuck for the next ten hours, until an Arby’s employee was opening the business Tuesday morning and he heard “noises”. I like to think that the noises were the farts being squeezed out of him as he got wedged in tighter and tighter, but nobody will confirm this.
The employee immediately called the police and that’s when they realized that the strange noises were coming from the very stuck Laquain still wedged inside the shaft.
Mullins Fire and Rescue eventually freed the idiot by cutting the ventilation pipe and pulling him through the roof, where he emerged dehydrated and with some muscle damage.
Crews then lowered him down and onto a stretcher and took him to hospital where he spent a few days before facing charges of Burglary Second Degree.
If you think you are a criminal mastermind it is usually a sure sign that you aren’t one. But stupid people are usually full of self-delusions – because of their stupidity.
And if you are a stupid thief, in your head you might have figured out that when you steal, for example, a TV from someone, the person most likely to need a replacement TV will be the person you stole it from.
Therefore, in stupid logic, what more cunning plan could you have than to break into a house, steal a lot of stuff and then sell it back to the victim of your crime. After all, you just know they need it.
In normal, sensible logic, however, the scenario is somewhat different. Because anyone sensible will know right from the start that the person you stole the goods from will immediately recognize their own possessions and more than likely call the police.
Which is exactly what happened in the case of three teenage morons who snatched a video-game system and then tried to sell it back to their victim.
It happened in Denver and, according to the police, a woman returned home to discover her home had been burglarized, with the thieves apparently gaining entry through a window.
Among the items missing were a portable gaming system and a jacket.
The woman immediately called the cops.
But the robbery had unnerved her somewhat, so rather than waiting at her place, she arranged for officers to meet her in the parking lot of a nearby restaurant.
While waiting there, three teenage males sauntered up to her and asked her if she wanted to buy – you’re probably way ahead of me – a portable gaming system, one that bore a remarkable resemblance to the one that had just been stolen from her place.
If that were not bad enough, one of the trio of teenage morons was wearing a jacket that looked a lot like hers.
As luck would have it, an off-duty cop was at a gas station next to the restaurant. He approached the trio of criminal masterminds and called for backup. Within moments they were placed into custody on suspicion of burglary.
You would hope that it would be a lesson to them but I think it’s safe to surmise that they are too stupid to learn.
The World Wide Web, created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, turned 25 years old this year, 2014.
There has never been anything like it before, certainly not as regards the impact it has made on society and the way we live our lives. Many of those changes are good, many are not so good and a few are downright annoying.
Here’s my take on some of them.
To concentrate on the good parts first, the one thing the www has done, for those who can use it effectively, is to give access to information that was previously only available to the elite few who managed to claw their way into the lofty heights of academia, or who worked in places where information was readily available. Now the same information is accessible at the touch of a button to anyone and everyone with a smart phone, tablet or computer.
Another benefit, in my view anyway, is that is has sent a massive wake-up call to telephone providers world wide, many of whom were fast asleep, content to rake in healthy profits from antiquated systems. No longer do we have to settle for slow and temperamental data transfer lines. Nowadays, particularly in the last few years, people are demanding systems that can cope with download streams in the gigabyte range. If you are old enough to remember the first modems you will know you wasted too much of your life trying to download at 12Kb/sec., sometimes less.
Freedom is also a welcome by-product of the World Wide Web.
The freedom to work in any country in the world, from virtually any country in the world is one big plus – it is for me anyhow. Another one I particularly like is the freedom to watch TV programs that I like, when I like, no longer tied to the schedules of some brainless bean-counter working for a broadcasting company. And the freedom to have your say on things as and when the mood takes you – they call that blogging don’t you know! – is also a great advantage to the ordinary person.
As is the freedom to disseminate information across the globe instantly, as Mr Snowden ably demonstrated, although I would hazard a guess that the powers that be would not agree with me on that one.
Indeed, this is the one aspect of the www that really bothers big brother.
China for example is one country where access is controlled by the state. Coincidentally this year also marks the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, you’ll find articles about that if you do a search, but probably not in China. They get away with it because they are not a democracy and do not pretend to be one.
In other countries, like the good old Land Of The (Not So) Free (Anymore)), the powers still like to con their people into believing that they are living in a democratic nation and that the people have the power to vote for this or that. But think for a moment, when was the last time you got to vote on whether to start a war, or whether to give $billions of your money to the greedy banksters to pay themselves huge bonuses and gamble away the rest?
It is because they need to keep the pretence of democracy going, that they do not yet have the confidence to start overtly censoring the internet. But they do all they can to snoop on what people are reading, or writing, or looking at.
This is where the freedom the www and associated technology provides can also be a negative, when it is used by governments to surveil us and record every piece of data they can. If they were doing this selectively and targeting terrorists and criminals no one would be too worried. But they are doing it to all of us, guilty and innocent alike.
They are also doing everything they can think of to impose taxes on internet commerce – of course they have to coz they’re stoney broke.
The www has revolutionized business practices and created all sorts of new commerce opportunities, Amazon perhaps being the best example of a company that has gone from nothing to a multi-billion dollar business in just a few years.
Communication and social interaction are also areas where the www has liberated the ordinary person – first with email and more recently with social media. In the near future expect to see social media expanding to become much more than individual platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. We are already seeing many new applications that are allowing people to communicate more widely, more easily and more often.
Another negative is that the World Wide Web has unwittingly facilitated the proliferation of pornography and violence, and is teaching a generation of morons all the wrong things. Things that will ensure they become a burden on society, not an asset.
And it has also opened a whole new environment in which criminals can operate. Millions of dollars are being stolen every day through scams, confidence tricks and outright theft.
You could say (and I frequently do) that people dumb enough to fall for these scams deserve all they get, or all they lose, is perhaps a better way of putting it. You know, the idiots who believe they really have won a lottery they didn’t buy a ticket for, or who think that Dr Umbungo Watanga from Nigeria is being truthful when he tells them that someone they never heard of has left them $25 million and all they need to do is send all their personal details and a few thousand dollars to unlock the fortune that awaits them. There really is one born every minute it seems!
All that said, and twenty-five years on, the www is still in its infancy. We have come a long way in the past 25 years, but we have really only scratched the surface as regards what the web has the potential to do to further improve our daily lives.
Where the vision to develop the www will come from in anyone’s guess. The only thing we know for sure is that the initiative won’t come from governments or their bureaucratic servants, simply because the people we elect to those positions do not have the required intelligence.
So its up to you. If you have any great ideas you want to share, send me an email.
We’ve talked about stupid criminals on the fasab blog before and if there was a competition to find the stupidest I think it would be a pretty difficult task.
However, having said that, on the short list would have to be 55-year-old Tempe resident Harry Williams.
You see according to court documents (yes, obviously this master criminal was caught) Williams first tried to rob an Ace Hardware store that was within walking distance of his house.
Having entered the store he put his hand under his shirt, announced to the cashier that he had a gun, and demanded all the money in the cash register.
Williams’ “hand under his shirt thing” must have looked so much like a gun that the employee told him he did not have any money in the register and was not going to give him any money even if he did.
With that, Williams demanded that the cashier open the register to prove he didn’t have any money.
The cashier said “No,” and Williams left.
However still determined to steal something, Williams ran across the road, and into a Safeway store.
Again, he tried to convince a cashier that he was committing a robbery. But, again, nobody was buying his routine.
Williams was summarily escorted out of the building, empty handed again.
But he wasn’t finished yet. That’s how stupid he was.
He waited a few minutes and then sneaked back into the same Safeway store where everybody had already seen him, stuffed a lone sausage in his pants, and sneaked back out.
Police found Williams shortly afterwards and discovered that, as well as the stolen sausage, he actually did have a 4- or 5-inch knife in his pocket, which he hadn’t thought of using, preferring his non-existent gun instead.
Although Williams was initially booked on charges of attempted armed robbery for using a simulated weapon, the charges were reduced to that of attempted robbery and shoplifting.
And he made our dumb criminals shortlist! Go Harry!!!
You hear now and again on the media about criminal masterminds. And Hollywood is prone to making movies showing these master criminals pulling off some incredible heist or other, like the Ocean’s movie trilogy starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt.
What that says about the police whose capture rate for small time criminals is depressingly low is itself depressing.
Sometimes though, the criminals are so dumb that they catch themselves.
Such was the case recently in Dublin, Ireland when a blundering bomber attempted to place a bomb underneath a Volvo SUV belonging to a local businessman. I don’t know the reason for the attempted bombing and for the purposes of this post it doesn’t really matter.
What does matter is that the dunce planting the bomb under the vehicle was caught in his own explosion because….
….wait for it….
the bomb went off sooner than he expected since he had forgotten about the Daylight Saving Time change in Ireland last weekend and didn’t put his watch forward.
The injured criminal idiot was apparently seen stumbling from the scene “dripping in blood” and getting into a taxi on the junction of New Street and Clanbrassil Street in Dublin.
You can’t really make things like this up – and actually with morons like this on the lose you don’t have to.
One for the Darwin Awards if he has the decency to expire and remove himself from the gene pool.