Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post: "Google ... announced Tuesday that it plans to follow the activities of users across nearly all of its ubiquitous sites, including YouTube, Gmail and its leading search engine. Google has already been collecting some of this information. But for the first time, it is combining data across its Web sites to stitch together a fuller portrait of users. Consumers who are logged into Google services won’t be able to opt out of the changes, which take effect March 1. And experts say the policy shift will invite greater scrutiny from federal regulators of the company’s privacy and competitive practices." ...
... More from Hayley Tsukayama of the Washington Post. ...
... CW: Here are instructions on how to close your Google account. Unfortunately for me, and I'm sure for millions of others, I'm kind of locked in to Google. They know that, of course. ...
... Update: In today's comments section, contributor Dave S. has a couple of suggestions on how to evade Google and protect your privacy: Ixquick.com bills itself as "the world's most private search engine." Details here. I tried it out, and it seems okay. In addition, the Tor browser bundle claims it "protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked."
Most people would still be really disturbed if they saw where their iPhone comes from. -- Former Apple executive ...
CW: I linked this New York Times story by Charles Duhigg & Keith Bradsher about Apple's Chinese slave-labor factories in yesterday's NYTX column on Tom Friedman's latest pile of crap, but I don't think I linked it here.
... Duhigg & Bradsher's follow-up article is even more disturbing: "... the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions.... Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems. Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records.... Bleak working conditions have been documented at factories manufacturing products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, I.B.M., Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Toshiba and others.... 'We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on,' said one former Apple executive.... Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice. If half of iPhones were malfunctioning, do you think Apple would let it go on for four years?'”
... Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "After decades of our leaders and sages assuring us that the United States would thrive as we moved beyond manufacturing, President Obama used his State of the Union address to officially declare post-industrial America an unqualified bust. Ours has become, he said, a land of 'outsourcing, bad debt and phony financial profits.' Reconstructing 'an economy that’s built to last,' by contrast, means revitalizing manufacturing, he said.... Obama has discovered his inner economic nationalist, just in time for the election.... Turning manufacturing jobs into middle-class jobs will require establishing the kind of advanced, ongoing vocational education that’s made German industry so successful, as well as reestablishing the right of U.S. workers to join unions."
Quote of the Day. Capitalism, in its current form, no longer fits the world around us. We have failed to learn the lessons from the financial crisis of 2009. -- Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum; i.e., Davos. Pretty astounding, considering the source.
Jeff Toobin of the New Yorker writes an excellent short piece on campaign finance law. He ends it with what we all know: "Most politicians who have been bought tend to stay that way." Thanks to Dave S. for the link.
E. J. Dionne on the SOTU address: "It is plain that, in the historic argument that will engage the country for the rest of the year, Obama, no less than the Republicans, is rooting himself in old American values. But in his case, they are the values of solidarity and fairness. And lest anyone miss his point, Obama ended his speech by referring to a flag he was given bearing the names of the SEAL team that undertook the bin Laden mission [CW: and I'll add, yesterday's rescue in Somalia]. The lesson Obama drew: 'No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together.... This nation is great because we get each other’s backs.' It was a long way from the imperatives of the private-equity market." CW: it was also ungrammatical ("No one .... their own."). But never mind. As we learned yesterday, the speechwriters wrote this one for 8th-graders.
Paul Krugman recommends this post by John Quiggin, who takes down right/libertarian economist Tyler Cowen's argument that social mobility isn't too important after all (yup, the right is teeing up defenses of aristocracy): "To sum up, Cowen’s post is an exercise in defending the indefensible, and its weaknesses reflect that. As Mitt Romney’s tax returns show, wealthy Americans have the rules rigged in their favor from day one. And that’s assuming they obey the rules. Unlike the poor, they can mostly cheat with impunity.... The only surprise is the suddenness with which the facts have become common knowledge." Thank you, Occupy; thank you, Willard; thank you, intransigent Republican-Tea Party Members of Congress.
David Dayen has a very good post on what he surmises is President Obama's means of neutering New York AG Eric Schneiderman, who has been the most penetrating thorn in the side of the coalition of AGs negotiating a sweetheart settlement favorable to big mortgage lenders: Obama made Schneiderman co-chair of a federal committee that is part of "a three year-old Financial Fraud Task Force which has done approximately nothing on Wall Street accountability outside of a few insider trading arrests.... Schneiderman may be trying to work from within, but he’s saddled with a panel full of co-chairs tied to banks with a history of obstructing accountability." ...
... Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism has a similar take, & a bit more info....
... CW: This is how the guys who are supposed to be on "your side" do you in. See Elizabeth Warren videos below. As Jeff Toobin says (linked above), "Most politicians who have been bought tend to stay that way." ...
... The New York Times editors are a little less skeptical about the Schneiderman appointment than are Dayen & Smith, but they are not naive: "President Obama’s credibility is on the line. To restore public faith in the financial system, nothing less than a full investigation and full accountability will do."
Everybody in our office is paying a higher tax rate than Warren. -- Debbie Bosanek, Warren Buffett's secretary (linked page includes video)
If this is a war, my side has the nuclear bomb We have K Street.… We have Wall Street. Debbie doesn’t have anybody. I want a government that is responsive to the people who got the short straw in life. -- Warren Buffett, on Republican charges that the "Buffett Rule" represents class warfare
Washington does work! For drug companies, big oil & hedge fund operators. "Thirty of the largest companies in the United State are now paying more for lobbying than they are in federal taxes":
Jared Bernstein demonstrates why PolitiFact "just can't be trusted." ...
... Paul Krugman: "The criterion, according to Politifact, seems to be that a fact isn’t a fact if it helps a Democratic narrative." ...
... Krugman: "Politifact has lost sight of what it was supposed to be doing.... Fact-checking should be about checking facts — not about trying to impose some sort of Marquess of Queensbury rules on how you’re allowed to use facts. Aside from undermining the mission, this makes the whole thing subjective.... Politifact wasn’t even analyzing what Obama said, they were analyzing their impression about what he might have been trying to imply."
Compassionate Conservatives. Linda Greenhouse: the Supremes, curiously, render a humane decision. Except Thomas & Scalia -- what did you expect? They are two nasty bastards.
David Nakamura of the Washington Post: President Obama got into a verbal sparring match on the tarmac at Phoenix with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R). It seems to have been over her characterization of him and of a meeting she had with him. Obama walked away from Brewer while she was mid-sentence. ...
... Devin Dwyer of ABC News has more. ...
... Dana Milbank: Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, a Republican, blows off criticisms by GOP presidential candidatess: "'I’m not going to get involved in political rhetoric,' he said. 'I have a job to do.' In a sense, Bernanke didn’t need to rebut his critics; the facts already have."
Right Wing World
Bonus Quote. ... it’s an odd thing when a leading Republican candidate has the children of his first wife attacking his second wife for things she said about his third wife and this candidate is the one getting social conservative support. -- David Brooks
Bonus Quote. I was attacked the other night for being grandiose. I would just want you to note: Lincoln standing at Council Bluffs was grandiose. The Wright Brothers standing at Kitty Hawk were grandiose. John F. Kennedy was grandiose. I accept the charge that I am grandiose and that Americans are instinctively grandiose. -- Newt Gingrich. CW: Either Gingrich has no idea what "grandiose" means or he has a low opinion of Americans' "instincts." And of Lincoln, the Wright brothers & JFK. Jerk.
Bonus Quote. By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American. -- Newt Gingrich. CW: Grand. E. Ose.
Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner: "When he claimed victory in South Carolina on Saturday, Newt Gingrich declared that, 'The centerpiece of this campaign, I believe, is American exceptionalism versus the radicalism of Saul Alinsky.' But if any candidate is using Saul Alinsky's playbook in this campaign, it's Gingrich himself. In his seminal 1971 work, 'Rules for Radicals,' left-wing community organizer Alinsky laid out his method for instigating change. Many of the tactics he spoke about -- such as exploiting resentment and pitting oneself against the establishment -- have become a central part of Gingrich's strategy for securing the Republican presidential nomination."
Adios, Mofo. Chuck Lindell of the Austin, Texas American-Statesman: "Gov. Rick Perry's ill-fated presidential campaign left a sour taste with many Texans and damaged his standing with Republican voters, according to a new poll commissioned by the American-Statesman and other state newspapers. Almost 1 in 3 Texas Republicans said Perry's performance on the national stage dimmed their view of the governor, and 40 percent said he should not seek re-election in 2014.... The drop left Perry with a lower approval rating than President Barack Obama's 43 percent — in a state Obama lost by 11 percentage points in 2008 — though Perry did have a slim lead among registered voters, with 42 percent to Obama's 41."
Jack Sherman of Politico reports that some GOP House members are not satisfied with going home to campaign as representatives of the Do-Nothing Congress. I wonder who coule possibly be to blame for their predicament?
CW: I know racial discrimination is a serious, terrible thing, but I cannot help laughing at the bigoted mayor of East Haven, Connecticut, who, "being of Italian descent, is sometimes thought to be of ethnic background." Mayor Maturo (R) -- that's his real name, tho in no way a characterization of his views or demeanor -- criticizes the press for the camera, then takes a question about what he would do to help the Latino community in the wake of the arrests of four of his police officers for discrimination against & harassment of Latinos. His response: "I might have tacos when I go home. I'm not quite sure yet." Although he doubles down on his "taco" comment in the linked video, he later apologized for the "off-collar comment." (No, that's no typo. I believe "off-collar" is the short form for "off-the-cuff, off-color," especially when "color" refers to, you know, "ethnic background.")
Mary Spicuzza of the (Madison,) Wisconsin State Journal: "Two more former aides to Gov. Scott Walker have been charged in the ongoing John Doe investigation, and face charges linked to political fundraising while working on county time. Both worked for Walker while he was serving as Milwaukee County Executive, and both are accused of fundraising activities while at their taxpayer-funded day jobs." Thanks to Kate M. for the link. CW: when you read what the employees did, you'll have a hard time believing Walker had no idea they were campaigning onthe job.
There's another GOP presidential debate tonight, this one from Florida & hosted by CNN. CW: I find the New York Times live updates the least stomach-churning way to "watch" the GOP debates.
New York Times: "Bev Perdue, a Democrat who made history when she became North Carolina’s first female governor in 2009, will not seek re-election this year, a Democratic source with knowledge of her decision said on Thursday." Raleigh News & Observer story here.
He’s not going to ask me to stay on, I’m pretty confident. I’m confident he’ll be president. But I’m also confident he’s going to have the privilege of having another secretary of the Treasury. -- Tim Geithner ...
... Bloomberg News: "Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, the last member of the Obama administration’s original economic team, said he doesn’t expect to remain in office if the president is re-elected.”
AP: "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran is ready for nuclear talks with the world powers amid toughening sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to sharply scale back its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad, however, says sanctions won't force Iran to capitulate to Western demands."
Washington Post: "Two decades after evicting U.S. forces from their biggest base in the Pacific, the Philippines is in talks with the Obama administration about expanding the American military presence in the island nation, the latest in a series of strategic moves aimed at China."
New York Times: "The Egyptian authorities have blocked the son of a United States cabinet member and several other American employees of a Washington-backed nongovernmental organization from leaving Egypt in an apparent escalation of a politically charged criminal investigation into foreign-funded groups promoting democracy. Officials of the group, the International Republican Institute, said the Egyptian authorities had blocked its Cairo chief, Sam LaHood, from boarding a flight at the airport last week. His father is Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary and a former Republican congressman from Illinois."
Reuters: "Greece resumes tortuous negotiations on a debt swap with private creditors in Athens on Thursday, with the European Central Bank thrown into the mix after IMF chief Christine Lagarde said public sector holders of Greek debt may need to take losses too."
AFP: "French police on Thursday arrested Jean-Claude Mas, the founder of the PIP breast implant company that sparked a global health scare by using substandard silicone, as part of a manslaughter probe.... The arrest was made in connection with a manslaughter investigation opened by prosecutors in the southern port city of Marseille in December...; Mas could be held in custody for up to 48 hours."