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An actual bit of progress in IoT security

S Aufrecht

Consumer Reports is starting to evaluate the security of IoT devices. As part of that, it’s reviewing wireless home-security cameras.

It found significant security vulnerabilities in D-Link cameras:

If you set up this kind of remote access, the camera and unencrypted video is open to the web. They could be discovered by anyone who finds or guesses the camera’s IP address – and if you haven’t set a strong password, a hacker might find it easy to gain access.

The real news is that Consumer Reports is able to put pressure on device manufacturers:

In response to a Consumer Reports query, D-Link said that security would be tightened through updates this fall. Consumer Reports will evaluate those updates once they are available.

This is the sort of sustained pressure we need on IoT device manufacturers.

—Bruce Schneier1

  1. Schneier, Bruce. (2018-Nov-07). Consumer Reports Reviews Wireless Home-Security Cameras. Schneier on Security. Retrieved from

The Other Collusion

S Aufrecht

… MLB team owners were found to have colluded against players by limiting free-agent contracts in three consecutive offseasons: 1985, 1986, and 1987. The Players Union filed grievances against ownership following each offseason — respectively dubbed Collusion I, II, and III — and an arbitrator sided with the players in each case.

The issue facing players and agents is that the league has learned lessons from the collusion scandals of the past. … the CBA ratified in 2016 restrict[s] spending in such a way that may not technically violate the CBA’s rules against collusion but achieves the same goals … this isn’t a bunch of old rich guys smoking cigars in a dimly lit meeting room while Ueberroth yells at them about fiscal responsibility.

It’s the new, legalized normal … and the last ones to realize that might be the ones impacted the most by it, the ones still sitting around in mid-January waiting for a worthwhile free-agent offer.

—Marc Normandin, SB Nation1

Meanwhile, right here in River City, some dramatic irony:

What’s a fair amount for a billion-dollar company to pay a writer for reporting, writing, and publishing one post per day on the company’s website? Two posts per day? One post per week? Two posts per week? These are the questions Vox Media and SB Nation are batting back and forth as they grind their way, ever so slowly, toward making it look like they’re fairly paying the thousands of (previously unpaid or lowly paid) people who write for their hundreds of sports websites. Based on new SB Nation employment contracts obtained by Deadspin, the company is now paying some team site writers a few dollars per post.

—Laura Wagner, Deadspin2

  1. Normandin, Marc. (2018-Jan-18). MLB collusion, explained. SB Nation. Retrieved from
  2. Wagner, Laura. (2018-Jul-31). SB Nation Is Paying Workers As Little As $3 Per Blog Post. Deadspin. Retrieved from

Yet another angle to the Amazon HQ2 Scam

S Aufrecht this month narrowed down 238 applicants for its second headquarters to 20 cities, but experts say it got something even from the losing bidders: A rich trove of information that can benefit the company for years to come.

Ronnie Bryant, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Partnership … estimates 100 people played some kind of role in the Amazon proposal. … The mayor of Pittsburgh, a finalist on Amazon’s shortlist, said his city’s bid could cost as much as $500,000.

A person familiar with the Amazon bidding process, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the process, told the Observer that the company has now created one of the most extensive databases for community information in the country.

“Now,” the person said, “they’re going to get even more from 20 more (cities).”

—Katherine Peralta And Ely Portillo, Charlotte Observer1

  1. Peralta, Katherine, and Portillo, Ely. (2018-Jan-30). In search for HQ2, Amazon is getting something extra from bidders: Secret info. Charlotte Observer. Retrieved from

These two stories exist in the same world

S Aufrecht

In late 1997, BMG Interactive released Grand Theft Auto … In March 1998, convinced that its foray into video games had been a waste of time and money, BMG – under the instruction of owner Bertelsmann – agreed to sell off BMG Interactive.

… [Strauss Zelnick:] “When I joined BMG, we all were aware that recorded music was a mature business, and management said, ‘What do you think of [expanding into] the movie business?’ I said, ‘Look, I really enjoyed my seven years in the movie business, and I’m proud of my track record, but it’s a very challenged asset class. Let’s look at the next big growth business in entertainment – let’s get into video games.’ So we did.” … “We hired a team, and we started acquiring properties for distribution, and just on the eve of watching our first release [hit the market], Thomas Middelhoff, who was then [head] of Bertelsmann, forced us to divest BMG Interactive – over my noisy objections,” says Zelnick.

“I didn’t carry the day and we sold BMG Interactive for a penny, essentially1, to what was then a fledgling entertainment company called Take-Two Interactive.

Grand Theft Auto III … approximately $500m … Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has done even better … Grand Theft Auto IV … around a billion dollars worldwide … GTA V … [has] an estimated total retail gross of $3bn – $5bn … Red Dead Redemption [has an estimated] retail gross of over $600m. … Red Dead Redemption 2 … will … easily top $1bn in sales.

In 2007, Zelnick Media Capital led the acquisition of New York-based Take-Two Interactive. As a result, Strauss Zelnick became the video game company’s CEO & Chairman, and its largest shareholder.

Today, Take-Two Interactive, run by Zelnick, is one of the biggest players in video games, with an approximate market cap of $13bn. It owns commercial smash franchises including Bioshock, Civilization, Mafia and NBA 2K.

It also – thanks to probably the worst seven-figure sale in the history of the music business – owns Rockstar Games, Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption.

—Tim Ingham, Music Business Worldwide2

Great story, full-circle ending for a heroic protagonist. And yet, at the same time, in the same country, an alternate narrative:

In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, many of us live in quiet desperation. Farmers are committing suicide, and so are taxi drivers in New York City. That’s why in the battle for the soul of our country, we must win.

Most of us are sinking, and there’s no bottom. This is the ugly face of capitalism. That’s why so many people have joined the Democratic Socialists of America.

Why do so many of us live in pain because of bad teeth or bad backs, unable to afford medical care because an insurance or drug company rations it to make a buck? It doesn’t have to be this way, but a small elite benefits from the status quo. They keep all the rest of us fighting and killing over scraps with talk of racial superiority or bathroom scares, or fear of poor and working people in other countries.

We deserve better. We have a right to the wealth our labor creates. We demand democracy. And we demand freedom from struggling and toiling to barely survive, while a small group of the super wealthy live like modern-day kings.

—Maria Svart3

  1. $9 million
  2. Ingham, Tim. (2018-Nov-11). Was this the biggest mistake in the history of the music business? Music Business Worldwide. Retrieved from
  3. Svart, Maria. (2018-Nov-06). Capitalism only works for the rich. We deserve to share the wealth: Democratic Socialists. USA Today. Retrieved from

Creeping Socialism

S Aufrecht

Maxine Phillips joined the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee about 40 years ago, before it became the D.S.A. in 1982.

“I was so impressed with how [a Catholic socialist] ran the meeting,” she remarked. It was “focused, and we had time budgeting, and we had goals, and we had a three-month plan. That kind of went against the popular image of socialists as just spending a lot of time sitting around talking.”

“There’s such a confusion in this country,” said Ms. Phillips. “In Europe, socialist parties were not supporting China or the Soviet Union, or any of the totalitarian regimes.”

David Reed, a millennial who serves as interim editor of the New York D.S.A.’s religious socialism website, joined the D.S.A. around 2012, after Googling “socialist groups in the United States.” … “I was trying to make sense of American politics and Catholic social teaching,” he told me. He found democratic socialism more compatible with church teaching than anything else he had read about.

Like Ms. Phillips, he believes that a lack of “baggage” distinguishes this spate of activism from the labor movement of the past 100 years. Young millennials and members of Generation Z have no memory of the Soviet Union.

“At this point, I’d be happy to have what they have in Sweden. But at a later point I’d be happy to have complete worker control.” The D.S.A. does not want Band-Aid solutions, she said, “but Band-Aids can help people. You can put something on a wound that can help it and then people can get stronger and they can fight for something better.”

“There’s a careful balance to be made that can be tricky at times,” said Mr. Niles. “Completely swearing off electoral cuts us off from an important avenue of power, but depending too much on it damns us to be co-opted and absorbed by the Democratic Party while not empowering communities and building leadership within our own ranks.”

—Brandon Sanchez, America 1

  1. Sanchez, Brandon. (2018-Oct-30). The year the Democrats met the democratic socialists. America: The Jesuit Review. Retrieved from

Medicare for All

S Aufrecht

This year, a majority of House Democratic candidates endorsed Medicare for All, according to the union National Nurses United.

Overall, 57 percent of candidates who endorsed Medicare for All won their races.

… even those candidates who backed single-payer in deep red districts did better at the polls this year than in 2016. Only five races out of 45 where Democrats who supported Medicare for All got less than 40 percent of the vote—safe Republican seats, in other words—saw a lower percentage of votes for the Democrat than in 2016.

Only seven candidates in the 30 races Cook labeled as toss-ups endorsed Medicare for All; of those candidates, two won, three lost and two races are still undecided, but only one reduced the vote share over 2016. … Incredibly, a district that previously looked at Dana Rohrabacher and said yes, I want him, now wants a guy who supports single-payer instead.

It’s interesting, though, that so many Democrats running in close races this year didn’t support Medicare for All, even in districts deemed Lean or Likely Democratic by Cook. Of 12 Likely Democratic races, only three Democrats endorsed Medicare for All.

So it seems that, even as Medicare for All becomes a mainstream policy among Democrats, its biggest holdouts remain Democrats in swing districts, where they likely fear the wrath of rich suburban independent voters. It’s impossible to say whether Medicare for All definitively helped or hurt candidates

… Democrats on the fence should take note of the fact that very few candidates who endorsed single-payer suffered crushing losses …

—Libby Watson, Splinter1

  1. Watson, Libby. (2018-Nov-12). How Did Medicare for All Candidates Fare in the Midterms? Splinter. Retrieved from

No magic technology needed, just social technology

S Aufrecht

Remarking on the towering filters being installed alongside junctions in Delhi, York University’s Ally Lewis, professor of atmospheric chemistry, likened filtering outdoor air to “trying to air-condition a room with the roof off”. It is far better to prevent the air pollution in the first place.

… small changes in age-old methods can make a huge difference. Explosives and wrecking balls can be replaced by machines that slowly nibble away at the concrete and mist canyons that suppress dust at source. In a world first, in 2015 London created two low-emission zones in the central city, meaning only the most modern and low-polluting diggers and cranes can be used there.

… simply switching to electric cars will not mean pollution-free cities. The level of emissions they cause will depend on how the electricity to run them is generated, while brakes, tyres and roads all create tiny airborne particles as they wear out.

In the US, studies have shown that doubling the size of a road can simply double the traffic, taking us back to square one.

Fortunately the opposite happens too: motorists adapt when roads are taken away. Between 1973 and 2003, a 6km, four-lane elevated expressway took 170,000 vehicles per day into the heart of Seoul in South Korea. It was frequently congested. Instead of building more lanes, city authorities demolished the whole thing. Sceptics predicted chaos, but traffic in the centre decreased. The residents of Seoul adapted, many swapping to the subway.

Audrey de Nazelle was part of a team that studied the pros and cons and found the health benefit of using [bikeshare] was 77 times greater than the increased risk of accident and inhalation of pollution. … “In studies comparing health benefits from technological approaches to reduce air pollution with walk/bike scenarios, we find 30 times greater benefits from physical activity.”

Reducing our dependence on road transport gives a quadruple benefit, improving our health, tackling air and noise pollution and reducing emissions.

… even the cleanest wood-burners, such as those that meet new European Ecodesign standards, will emit as much particle pollution during a period of use as six modern lorries would driving for the same amount of time.

Ammonia from fertiliser and farming is a major ingredient in many city smogs, especially in the springtime smogs that plague western Europe and many other parts of the world.

—Gary Fuller, The Guardian1

  1. Fuller, Gary. (2018-Nov-13). What would a smog-free city look like? The Guardian. Retrieved from

Risk Free Ripcord

S Aufrecht

Essentially, we all have a risk-free ripcord we can pull at the first pang of boredom or desire for novelty, and of course those pangs occur constantly.

Every time someone in a group of people deploys a screen, the whole group is affected. Each disengaged person in a crowd is like a little black hole, a dead zone for social energy, radiating a noticeable field of apathy towards the rest of the room and what’s happening there.

The full strength of this black-hole effect on today’s social events can be hard to appreciate, because it has crept into our lives so gradually. But it sure was obvious in a venue at which everyone’s ripcord has been checked at the door. So much more attention stayed in the room, and it was palpable.

—David Cain1

  1. Cain, David. (2018-Nov-12). The Simple Joy of “No Phones Allowed”. Raptitude. Retrieved from

Have Wild Horses Dragged You to the Wrong Bank?

S Aufrecht

… judges and regulators have ruled that when a business makes a claim that is either vague or so obviously inflated that people simply won’t believe it, that’s “puffery,” and not actionable in court.

Wells Fargo, which is struggling to rebuild its reputation for integrity after a string of scandals involving consumer rip-offs, is testing the limits of the “puffery” defense. In a legal filing last week aimed at getting a shareholder lawsuit dismissed, the company asserted that statements that the bank was working to “restore trust” among its customers and “trying to be more transparent” about its scandals — statements made by its chief executive, Tim Sloan — were, well, just puffery.

Wells Fargo says that even though the statements by its management fall within the legal definition of puffery, that doesn’t mean they’re untrue. “Wells Fargo stands behind the statements it made regarding its commitment to transparency and rebuilding trust with its customers,” the bank told me by email. “These statements were true then and remain so today.”

—Michael Hiltzik, L.A. Times1

  1. Hiltzik, Michael. (2018-Nov-09). Wells Fargo says its promises to restore consumer trust were just ‘puffery.’ But they look more like lies. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from

Another Step Against Slavery

S Aufrecht

More than 150 years after the ratification of the US Constitution’s 13th Amendment, Colorado has officially abolished slavery. Coloradans voted Tuesday for Amendment A, a measure removing language in the state constitution that allowed prison labor without pay.

Colorado is one of more than a dozen states whose state constitution technically still allows involuntary servitude as a form of criminal punishment.


Governing magazine notes that bills “with similar goals failed this year in Wisconsin and stalled in Tennessee …


“This won’t have a direct impact on prison reform or how inmates are treated,” Kamau Allen, an organizer with Abolish Slavery Colorado, told Fox News in July. “But it is definitely more impactful than removing something like a Confederate monument, because this will actually change the text of a living document.”

—P.R. Lockhart, Vox1

  1. Lockhart, P.R. (2018-Nov-07). Colorado passes Amendment A, voting to officially abolish prison slavery. Vox. Retrievd from

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