Sunday, February 22, 2009

The White House is Watching You

A White House decision permitted the use of persistent Internet cookies in YouTube video files embedded on the redesigned Web site. Letting third-party cookies be placed on the site is a deviation from established executive-branch policy that leaves site visitors open to being tracked and profiled without their knowledge.

There are two types of cookies: persistent cookies and session cookies. Session cookies are temporary and can be easily deleted. Another type of cookie are persistent cookies.

"Persistent cookies can exist for many years in a user's browser cache, repeatedly identifying the user to the issuing web site across many visits. . . Usability aside, however, persistent cookies are specifically designed to uniquely identify users on return visits to web sites, often over the course of years. In terms of anonymity, this is bad. Advertisers have found innovative ways to exploit cookies to track users as they visit web sites that contain their ads or other content. The larger the advertising network, the greater the risk (p. 73)," states Greg Conti, security researcher and Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) questioned a waiver that was issued by White House counsel concerning the use of cookies on the site. The waiver, which is now part of the site's modified privacy policy allows the use of persistent cookies by "some third-party providers to help maintain the integrity of video statistics."

Privacy advocates said visitors to federal Web sites should be able to view official information without fear of being tracked either by the government or by third parties such as YouTube, which is owned by Google Inc. That expectation is consistent with the government's own stance on the use of cookies, according to a memorandum issued in June 2000 by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Google and the new administration are intertwined. With no experience in government, Google product manager Katie Jacobs Stanton will be the new President’s “director of citizen participation.” Google has been actively involved in the Obama White House, starting with Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s endorsement of Obama during the campaign and Google’s role in powering the Obama Weekly Video Address. Google Inc. donated $701,099 to the Obama campaign (Cf.

Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Digital Democracy, is concerned. He said that the decision to allow the use of persistent cookies in embedded videos is worrisome.

Tools such as YouTube's Insight software could be used to conduct in-depth analysis of the data collected from visitors, Chester said. And it isn't just third parties that could potentially use the tracking data, according to Chester.

Such information could "give the Obama White House a tremendous amount of insight into public behaviors," he said. "Do we really want the government to sanction the use of a consumer-profiling application that links our commercial behaviors with our civic behavior?"

How the White House responds to the concerns bears watching, Chester added. "This will be a litmus test on how to balance the interest in using new-media tools with privacy concerns," he said.

"Google is not just a benign corporate entity. It has a variety of special interests," said Chester, who has sparred with Google over data-privacy issues. "They're in a great position to push their agenda through with the support of the president and the Democrats in Congress."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

John C. Calhoun

Term in Office: April 1st, 1844 - March 10th, 1845

Succeeded by: James Buchanan

* Born at “the Long Canes settlement”, in what became Abbeville County, South Carolina, March 18, 1782;
* Graduated from Yale College in 1804 and from Litchfield Law School in 1806;
* Admitted to the bar in 1807 and practiced law in Abbeville, South Carolina;
* Married Floride Bonneau Colhoun in 1811;
* Gave up the practice of law and established himself as a planter;
* Member of the State House of Representatives, 1808-1809;
* Representative from South Carolina, 1811-1817;
* Secretary of War in President Monroe’s Cabinet, 1817-1825;
* Vice President of the United States 1825-1832, when he resigned; was a Senator from South Carolina 1832-1843;
* Secretary of State in President Tyler’s Cabinet from April 1, 1844 until March 10, 1845;
* As Secretary of State, signed an abortive treaty for the annexation of Texas and aided in accomplishing annexation by joint resolution of Congress;
* Delegate of South Carolina to, and presiding officer of, a railroad-and-waterway convention held in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1845;
* Again a Senator from South Carolina 1845-1850;
* Author of voluminous writings and speeches;
* Died in Washington, DC, March 31, 1850.

Friday, February 20, 2009

"The Federal Government Is Bankrupt"

"The Federal Government Is Bankrupt"
With the passing of the Economic Stimulus bill, the cost estimate is $800 billion. The true deficit of the federal government should be grasped. The $65.5 trillion in total obligations exceeds the gross domestic product of the world.
The total U.S. obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits to be paid in the future, effectively have placed the U.S. government in bankruptcy, even before new continuing social welfare obligation, embedded in the Stimulus spending, is taken into account.

"As bad as 2008 was, the $455 billion budget deficit on a cash basis and the $5.1 trillion federal budget deficit on a GAAP accounting basis does not reflect any significant money [from] the financial bailout or Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, which was approved after the close of the fiscal year," stated economist John Williams, who publishes the Internet website Shadow Government Statistics.
"The federal government's deficit is hemorrhaging at a pace which threatens the viability of the financial system," Williams added. "The popularly reported 2009 [deficit] will clearly exceed $2 trillion on a cash basis and that full amount has to be funded by Treasury borrowing.”

The Treasury has been largely dependent upon foreign buyers, principally China and Japan and other major holders of U.S. dollar foreign exchange reserves, including OPEC buyers purchasing U.S. debt through London.

"Truthfully," Williams pointed out, "there is no Social Security 'lock-box.' There are no funds held in reserve today for Social Security and Medicare obligations that are earned each year. It's only a matter of time until the public realizes that the government is truly bankrupt and no taxes are being held in reserve to pay in the future the Social Security and Medicare benefits taxpayers are earning today."

"Social Security and Medicare must be shown as liabilities on the federal balance sheet in the year they accrue according to GAAP accounting," Williams argues. "To do otherwise is irresponsible, nothing more than an attempt to hide the painful truth from the American public. The public has a right to know just how bad off the federal government budget deficit situation really is, especially since the situation is rapidly spinning out of control.

"The federal government is bankrupt," Williams stated. "In a post-Enron world, if the federal government were a corporation such as General Motors, the president and senior Treasury officers would be in federal penitentiary."
How does this information impact young people today? Feel free to discuss career goals, college, and your prospects for the future.

Go to:
On the right hand side of the blog, answer: how much is the “Debt Per Citizen?” Each citizen of the United States owes how much to pay the U.S. National Debt?

Print out the answer to the questions and hand in the “In-box” as HW for EC.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Iraqis Believe in Democracy: Inspire Americans to Vote?

The results of participation in local elections all over Iraq is 51% according to the IHEC, Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission.

The number of Iraqis who cast their votes 7.5 million.

Voting centers in Baghdad and other 13 provinces started at 07:00 a.m. Baghdad local time on Saturday (Jan. 31) to receive 15 million eligible voters who are electing their candidates to occupy all 440 seats in local councils.
On the other hand, the closet equivalent, American off-year elections, run around
37%, the "normal" modern midterm voter participation rate. In pointed contrast, the lowest rate--40%--was in Anbar, the Sunni heartland west of Baghdad. The sprawling desert area was dominated in 2005 by al Qaeda in Iraq. Thus, in four years, the Americans succeeded in pushing out AQ in Iraq and Iraqis responded by voting with more confidence and a higher percentage of them voted than the average American.

In December 2006 the Iraq Study Group, concluded: "The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating (p. xiii)." And again they concluded that the situation in Anbar, one of worst four provinces cited, was "highly insecure (p. 6)."