Saturday, December 21, 2013

I Applaud the Hackers Who Stole 40 Million Credit and Debit Cards from TARGET

TARGET was hacked over a very busy shopping period and about 40 million debit and credit cards were stolen. It gives me joy to say that I am reading that hackers in Eastern Europe may be behind this heist. Yippee ki yay!

I am happy not because 40 million customers have been directly affected. The affected customers are only 'collateral damage' - I am one of them-  and will be taken care of by the all powerful banks. I am thrilled because this event clearly shows that there is no way to protect a computer network, no matter how much money one throws at it.

In this case, I am quite sure that the Eastern European hackers only had a few thousand dollars to play with. They are using their brain power and their computing smarts to disarm a company security systems that cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year and I am elated to see that money cannot defend a network. Yippee ki yay! Again.

Expertise and constant questioning by freelancers can defend a network and companies and government agencies should encourage hacking as a way to increase our skills and abilities in this area. One cannot learn how to hack -at least not proficiently- in a classroom and this has to be recognized by our government. 

We should not prosecute hackers as criminals but use them as allies and place them all in a 'public corporation' paid for with our tax money. Let all freelancers out there -even in Eastern Europe- prove that they are experts by hacking the 'hackers corporation' first... The public company will then issue instructions on how a network needs to be set up to be able to withstand any type of cyber attacks. Their job would be to break into any company they can...

Socially, by using hackers as a public resource, we would be better off. Besides, this approach would be far cheaper than the current mentality/approach that states that hackers are the bad guys and they will pay for their misdeeds in the judicial system. We all pay more for banks' and retailers loses, either directly -higher prices- or indirectly -inconvenience, taxes, etc.-.

Au contraire, hackers are serving a social good, just like vaccinations. Let's learn how to harness the power hackers have and put it to good use. Why do we continue to vilify them?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Snowden Is Slowly Emerging as a True American Patriot

The US government is trying to get a hold of Edward Snowden to put him on trial for revealing 'national secrets'. Mind you, that the 'national secrets' were collected with the help of a secret court and using secret methods so that we would not have been able to find anything about them until who knows when...

Snowden did us 'an unprecedented solid' by revealing the true magnitude and deviousness of the US spying capabilities as well as the fact that the NSA could spy on anybody, anytime, on any channel, and for whatever reason they wanted. It was a total black secret, so who cared?

It was clear to me from day one of this saga that Snowden is a true national hero, but it took the media and the American people a few months to pretty much realize the same thing and I am thrilled about that. I am literally jumping up and down as I am typing this entry.

A federal judge ruled unequivocally that what the NSA is currently doing is totally illegal and unconstitutional and I could not agree with him more. We are lame ducks and guinea pigs in an unprecedented experiment in which the government is capturing and monitoring every single electronic communication move we make.

The current, NSA led, spying activities on our citizens are not only dangerous for the entire society as it stymies the freedom of speech and can destroy legitimate business initiatives but it could also be totally disastrous for our democracy should an unscrupulous president be elected.

A legitimately elected president (turned rogue while in office) could cherry pick individuals -in Congress or not yet in Congress- he wanted to blackmail and ask the NSA for secret reports on them 'on national defense grounds'. He could then blackmail them at will to get to, for instance, pass any laws he wanted. How would the NSA be able to deny such requests when the FISA court rulings are 100% secret and can be easily influenced by the president?

Reforming the NSA and government spying are badly needed. I was reading some ideas generated by a panel selected by the WH to reform the government spying activities and it would be great to have all of them implemented right away. The funny thing is that the president will decide what the next steps are and this is infuriating as the current spying programs and methods were created by the NSA and they should be dismantled by the courts. Their replacement should come from congress action and not just from the executive branch.

North Korea Leadership Would Be Really Funny...

Today I was reading that North Korea sent a fax to the South Korea's Ministry of National Defense stating that it would strike South Korea 'mercilessly and without notice'. What?

I am rubbing my eyes in disbelief and imagine it is a joke but sadly it just cannot be. North Korea is an insane place, absolutely crazy and unpredictable.

Leaving aside the fact that they sent a fax -who uses faxes anymore?- why would they make it sound like it did not count? 

This is absolutely hilarious and reminiscent of a skit that would be played out by Monty Python or SNL. I just can imagine the crazy North Korean president just bursting into madness and envision how one of his generals, trying to appease him, proposed that they just sent a 'menacing' fax... And it actually happened.

I just have a feeling that North Korea will fall apart soon. The North Korean leader is as unstable as it gets, in my opinion.

We should make the North Korean leadership listen to The Black Eyed Peas 'I Gotta Feeling' song, but my feelings are not that happy as far as North Korea is concerned.

Monday, December 9, 2013

We Need a Single Payer Healthcare System (SPHS) in the United States

I am reading that Colin Powell favors a single payer system to address all the shortcomings of the US healthcare system.

Although I should be careful with Mr. Powell's positions, given his strong support of the Iraq war, I truly agree with him and I believe that a single payer system would address most of the existing inadequacies of the US healthcare system.

1. Access
2. Affordability and coverage
3. Yearly mad dash to buy insurance
4. Outcome
5. Cost

1. Access

We currently have an N-tier healthcare system where people with money can have any procedures they want and the poorest of all can only access ER and all the other 'providers' in-between.

SPHS would eliminate all barriers to entry if you pay social security taxes. I would expect a SPHS would increase the social security taxes to allow payments for this new universal benefit.

2. Affordability

Currently we do not know how healthcare prices are set. Doctors, hospitals, insurers, clinics, pharmaceutical companies, etc. can set any prices they want 'just because'.

No doubt that SPHS will eliminate insurance intermediaries and all insurance savings will make healthcare more affordable from a price perspective.

3. Yearly mad dash to buy insurance

SPHS would eliminate the requirement that we do anything to obtain health insurance next year. We just pay the extra social security premiums and we are instantaneously covered.

4. Outcome

If you need to see the 'final' healthcare outcome, please compare the US with any Western European country and see for yourself. Even Cuba does better than the US, and they use a SPHS.

5. Cost v. Benefits

We spend a significant chunk of change on healthcare, both collectively, as a nation, and as individuals.

As a matter of fact, in terms of efficiency, Bloomberg ranks the US on the 46th position, behind Libya, Thailand, and Romania, among others. We are spending over $8,600/year per person on healthcare (over $715/mo). This is insane, if you think about it, as the figure includes toddlers and senior citizens...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

On Nelson Mandela and Terrorism

Nelson Mandela, the president of South Africa, died on Thu, Dec 5, and I am reading that 4 -current and former- US presidents will attend his funeral, on Dec 15th.

RIP, Mr. Mandela.

It is beyond ironic -and a bit unsettling- to see how the US reveres Nelson Mandela while it considered him a terrorist until 2008. 5 years ago Mandela was a terrorist and now 4 US presidents go to his funeral and consider and speak of him as a 'hero'. I am wondering if any US president(s) would have traveled to Mr. Mandela's funeral had he died in -say-2007...

I just cannot wrap my mind around this type of hypocrisy shown by the US government. At the same time, I am certain that individuals who currently are considered 'terrorists' by the US government may actually be social mavens and represent legitimate social movements.

How can we trust that -at any given time- the US really 'knows' who the real 'terrorists' are?  

Friday, December 6, 2013

FIFA Should Sell the Rights to Name the World Cup Finals Groups And Pay Me an Idea Fee

Just like today's WC draw, I always enjoy the final draw for the WC final tournament but I am terribly bothered by the fact that the groups are identified by letters as opposed to -for example- companies' names and/or products.

Would it not be awesome if, let's say, the group of death would be named 'Samsung Group of Death'? Instead of 'Group C' a group's name could be 'Ford Explorer Group' or any other company or product name, such as 'Nike Hypervenom Group'.

A group's name could even be the name of one the official partners/sponsor. FIFA -and I- would make a chunk of change by selling the group naming rights and I would like to get a portion of that.

If FIFA does decide to do this I would like to receive 15% of the naming rights revenue FIFA receives. I am almost certain FIFA could make at least $5,000,000 for each group name at a final WC tournament.

Then, imagine the extra money to be made when the announcers call out the groups or posters/media materials are made/printed with the companies' names right where the group letters exist now... The group names would stick with a tournament forever: video games, stamps, newspapers, etc. will always have the company/product names listed as the group names.

This idea could be applied to other tournaments, such as basketball, tennis, and hockey, and these tournaments can be sporting or artistic events....

The concept could also be applied to all competitions where teams are assigned to groups and I would like to get 15% of all proceeds resulting from the naming rights. 

On Fri, Dec 6 2013, I have actually sent an email to FIFA about my idea and proposal.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Amazon's Drones And My Solution

I watched last night how the CEO of Amazon bragged about the possibility that Amazon would be able to use -within the next several years- drones to deliver purchased merchandise to people's homes within 30 min from placing the order (and within 10 miles from a 'fulfillment' center).

That is awesome!

But I think there are better solutions for this problem. Here is the solution I am envisioning.

1. Each household can have a set of drones, each with particular capabilities, (range, duration, etc.) and each with an assigned pad (a 10 x 10 foot area or similar);
2. Each drone has assigned a unique ID, similar to how cell phones, computers, and devices have a unique MAC address;
3. When a household member makes a purchase they can dispatch one of their drones to go fetch it, if within range of the vendor's warehouse;
4. Each drone is associated with a specific home base and a respective landing pad coordinates;
5. When dispatched to retrieve packages, each drone acquires a flight path lease that is unique for a very short period of time (maybe 20 min). This path cannot be used by any other drone for that time frame. Paths can be possibly mapped with radar devices mounted on existing cell towers.
6. Drone signals the coordinates and time elements to a centralized drone paths clearing house and the clearing house stores the fact that the path is 'busy' and cannot be leased to any other drone for that time frame;
7. The centralized clearing house receives updates -from the drone- on current coordinates as the drone flight develops and updates internal database; 
8. Drone with specific/authenticated/assigned ID travels to the merchant's warehouse on the uniquely leased flight path, lands on the pad assigned by the merchant and picks up the package;
9. Drone acquires a new path lease from the clearing house, as well as the time elements, and travels back to homebase pad;
10. Drone lands on home pad with assigned package;
11. :) Happy customer and no drone collusion;

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Few Thoughts on Romania's National Holiday (Dec 1)

Today, on Dec 1, Romania celebrates 95 years since the grand reunification of 1918.

Romania was not a brand new country when its provinces unified under a single national state in 1918, but rather a few old and profoundly connected cultural and linguistic spaces. Finalizing the overlaying of geographical boundaries over historical values and connections is the classic definition of the Romanian nation.

(Unfortunately it is not something Romania could have accomplished on its own, but this is another topic.)

Romania, to its credit and in spite of extreme external pressure, has sustained these connections through extraordinarily difficult times, from Nazism to communism and from totalitarianism to democracy. Kudos to Romania for this accomplishment.

Romania needs to step up and show that it is a mature nation by providing opportunities to its citizens. It is unacceptable that young Romanians think that they can get more accomplished overseas than at home. The value of being a Romanian needs to be demonstrated in Romania and not in a foreign country, except in very few cases.

Certainly the +3 millions of Romanians who emigrated during the past 20 years would argue that they had no rational choice and there are no arguments to defeat the reality that Romania has never, in its history, exported so many of its citizens (in such a nonchalant fashion).

The Romanian government and politicians' performance needs to be measured against a set of metrics that include not only the unemployment rate, tax rates, and GDP growth but also the retention rate of Romanian citizens (professionals and young, mostly) in Romania.

How is it possible for a nation to continue to remain viable and grow organically when 20% of its citizens want to not live within its borders? It is even more troubling to think about that given the severe demographic constraints faced by Romania.

Make Romania a desirable country to Romanians and Romania will be prosperous. There cannot be a unified country with accelerating divisions between what its citizens want and what the government thinks that they want. If Romania succeeds at enabling Romanians to be successful at home then few Romanians will need to emigrate and Romania will become stronger than ever.

And, frankly, who does not want to see a strong Romania? La Multi Ani, Romania!