Posts tagged ‘corruption’


Reacting to AJE’s Broken Dreams: are there parallels between GM and Boeing’s 787?

12.09.2014


Simpsons fans should be able to connect the above scene with the post below.

I’m sure some of you watched the al-Jazeera English documentary this week on the Boeing 787, and how there are safety concerns over the models built in South Carolina. In summary, ‘Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit and reporter Will Jordan investigate Boeing’s 787 “Dreamliner”, finding some workers with quality concerns, alleging drug use and fearing to fly the plane they build.’ Even if you don’t watch the full 48 minutes, the links on the page make for interesting reading.
   I’m not usually one to take a TV programme at face value, but I admit this one piqued my interest. Enough for me to Tweet Air New Zealand last night to ask them their thoughts and the airline responded this morning:

Safety is paramount and non-negotiable at Air NZ. We remain completely confident of the safety and reliability of the 787-9.

which does sound a bit like a press release. Hackneyed? Yes, and totally unlike the human face that Air New Zealand generally takes with its Twitter account.
   Call me cheeky, but I responded with:

That’s what BOAC said about the De Havilland Comet. Will you check into these new allegations about the Hillbilly 787s?

(I accept that that was not a good term to use and I apologize for it) and added later:

Can you guys at least watch the doco or confirm to me that someone senior enough has, and then convey your thoughts?

   The documentary was quite damning about the 787s, and the US system failing consumers these days (just think about GM), I think I’ve every right to be worried. Air New Zealand, even more so. When whistle-blowers like John Woods are fired, something is rotten. If consumers don’t trust ‘Made in USA’ any more, then we need to be assured that we’re getting the best planes made by the best workers—and traditionally, those workers are the Washington state ones.
   Surely there are parallels here. Here’s what happened to GM quality manager Courtland Kelley:

It described employees passing the buck and committees falling back on the “GM nod”—when everyone in a meeting agrees that something should happen, and no one actually does it …
   Kelley had sued GM in 2003, alleging that the company had dragged its feet addressing dangers in its cars and trucks. Even though he lost, Kelley thought that by blowing the whistle he’d done the right thing and paved the way for other GMers to speak up. Now he saw that he’d had the opposite impact: His loss, and the way his career had stalled afterward, taught others at the company to stay quiet …
   Kelley had been the head of a nationwide GM inspection program and then the quality manager for the Cobalt’s predecessor, the Cavalier. He found flaws and reported them, over and over, and repeatedly found his colleagues’ and supervisors’ responses wanting. He thought they were more concerned with maintaining their bureaucracies and avoiding expensive recalls than with stopping the sale of dangerous cars. Eventually, Kelley threatened to take his concerns to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Frustrated with the limited scope of a recall of sport-utility vehicles in 2002, he sued GM under a Michigan whistle-blower law. GM denied wrongdoing, and the case was dismissed on procedural grounds.

and what happened to Woods (who also lost against Boeing and its team of lawyers):

There was some animosity between quality and production. I would bring up a quality concern and they would say, well, that’s not helpful to production.
   On several occasions, I would go check out these repairs while they were being done and after. There are inspection points all throughout the repair process where an inspector is supposed to come over and check something and mark it down that he checked it.
   You’re never supposed to go past an operation that’s not checked off. I would see a defect and I’ll look at the inspection sheet and there was no note of it, and I know in the specifications that all anomalies, even small anomalies, are supposed to be recorded in the inspection.
   So I would bring an inspector over and show it to him and say, “Could you please note this down in your inspection?” And they say okay, so I’d walk away. Then I’d come back later that day or the next day and it’s still not noted.
   So then I would go mention it to the supervisor and go back another couple of days and still not noted. It became very frustrating on several occasions, to the point where people were angry at me for bringing it up.

   If we cannot trust the NHTSA over GM, can we really trust the FAA?
   As a New Zealander, I would like our national airline to assure us that we’re not getting lemons, and just how we can be sure that we’re not the guinea pigs for testing the planes like those early Comet passengers were.

Boeing’s response to the al-Jazeera programme can be found here.
A review questioning al-Jazeera’s objectivity with claims there were biases can be found in Forbes.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, culture, media, New Zealand, TV, USA | No Comments »


Frack away, IGas Energy: the Metropolitan Police has your back

06.02.2014

The spirit of Gene Hunt is alive and well in the Greater Manchester Police, in the form of Sgt David Kehoe.

   Arresting someone over drink driving when he has neither drunk nor driven reminds me of The Professionals episode, ‘In the Public Interest’, about a corrupt police force in an unnamed English city outside London.
   The only thing is: that was fiction. This was fact.
   So, IGas Energy plc, you may frack away. The British Government and the Met have your back.
   Dr Steven Peers was the cameraman and citizen journalist who was arrested. CPS did not have sufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution. I wonder why.
   He is now planning to bring a civil claim against the GMP for ‘wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and assault,’ according to the Manchester Evening News, which appears to be the only mainstream media outlet I could find that covered this incident.
   Another report claimed that the GMP never received a complaint from Dr Peers, though how are we supposed to believe any statement from this force? The video has gone viral, and global—and if Operation Weeting and the inquiry into police standards were insufficient to give the Met a bad name, then this surely will.
   What next? Legislation to make protests against oil companies illegal?
   No, that would be daft. It would totally be against the ideas of free speech, human rights and international law. No democracy would be that stupid.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, globalization, media, New Zealand, politics, UK | No Comments »


Finance is broken, and we still haven’t learned

26.01.2014

I posted this quotation from I Acknowledge on my Tumblr today:

The news that should have us all worried is: the derivatives market contains $700trn of these debts yet to implode.
   Global GDP stands at $69·4trn a year. This means that (primarily) Wall Street and the City of London have run up phantom paper debts of more than ten times of the annual earnings of the entire planet.

   It brings me back to one of the first things we ever wrote in the Medinge manifesto: ‘Finance is broken.’ Attempting to value companies using shares or financial statements can be a mugs’ game—and that was in 2002, before the market became so improbable.
   If only we knew how much worse things would get. And we thought, in the immediate post-9-11 period, that we would be learning the lesson about a Dow that was well overvalued. History has shown that we didn’t. And the most recent recession hasn’t corrected things: we’re still sitting on a time bomb.
   We wrote in the manifesto, ‘We believe money is a poor snapshot of human value. Brands, however, create value. The branding industry is about creating value for our customers. It makes more sense to measure the ingredients of branding and relationships.’
   It’s an ideal, and one with its own problems, too. But I know that part of the finance industry has failed us through its greed. I’m not too certain how their deeds and those of these British forgers differ, creating “wealth” backed by nothing.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, globalization, UK, USA | No Comments »


Someone has it worse: a site, clean since April 7, that Google still blocks

26.04.2013

One last post on this topic for now, since this entry is pertinent for a complete picture of what is happening with the Google malware bot.
   Let’s just say for argument’s sake that I’m wrong, and the combined minds of the Google hive are right. An entire company of boffins must be smarter than a guy who doesn’t use automated teller machines, right? So, according to Google, our ad server linked to a location at bjskosherbaskets.com, which distributed malware on April 6. The difference is: we know our server’s been clean since April 6, and Google refuses to see this. Let’s buy into this fantasy and that we still link to this very dangerous, malware-distributing website via our ad server.
   So what about this website at bjskosherbaskets.com itself? What does Google say about them?
   You can try Googling for this site yourself, and you might see this:

It exists, but McAfee SiteAdvisor (in my case) gives it a red X.
   If you click through, you’ll get this advisory from Google:

Oh dear, you mean it’s still infected? Tell me more, Google.

   Um, nothing.
   That’s right. Nothing is wrong with this website. It’s been clean since April 7. Yet Google still blocks this now-clean site and anyone who used to link to it. Even though we cleared the hack and don’t link to it any more, Google still insists that we do, and that we’re guilty for doing so. Even if we were still linking to it, and there’s nothing there that’s malicious, then too bad. I feel for the webmaster of this site, because they’ve done all they can—yet Google blocks them as well, 19 days after its own bot said it last picked up any issues.
   The notion that Google takes five to seven hours to reclassify a site is clean is bollocks. This is running on nearly three weeks and Google is penalizing an innocent website. Even we don’t dare link all our sites back to our ad server, which actually harms the small businesses we feed through it. (Not to mention my own campaign ads! Though some of you might say that’s a good thing.)
   I know we can turn off these advisories, but I doubt many will. I haven’t, because of FUD: what if I come across a site that really is infected?
   The house of G continues to have the ’net by the short and curlies. And the sites that really are malware—Google’s Iphone hack via Doubleclick, for example—are clean according to the company, of course.
   Since Google has spent 2013 targeting other ad networks (Netseer in one case, Isocket in another, and our ad server in the most recent case), could this be its online ad division trying to get a bigger slice of the pie? Accuse the competition of spreading malware, but always deem your own to be clean—even when it isn’t. Then it can try to dominate.
   We already know it spied on users who opted out of advertising preferences, until it was busted by yours truly, and there was the spying on Iphone users last year that I mentioned above. It’s hard to put all this down to Google being a nice servant of the internet, when it took effort to program these spying mechanisms in. Having been busted on both, it’s desperate to continue growing its online advertising’s invasiveness. By accusing everyone else of malware—Isocket, for instance, is still puzzled by what caused it to be blacklisted along with “guilt by association” publishers who used its network—then online publishers might think Google’s the only game in town.
   It isn’t, and I hope it never will be.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, marketing, publishing, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Here’s more about Google Adsense delivering malware and malicious code

07.04.2013

I wasn’t too far off the mark with my last post. It’s not unlikely that what was placed into our site by hacking during the small hours of Saturday morning was Google Adsense code: here’s an article entitled, ‘Google AdSense Potential Source of Malware’ at Resources for Life.
   While ours was more serious, because it involved hacking, Google’s openness and the lack of quality control by its partners (and by itself?) for its Adsense system is still problematic.
   It’s the age-old problem: you want to be more open, but with that comes a flood of less than scrupulous folks who take advantage of it.
   What jumped out at the Resources page was this:

How it Happens. Hackers write malicious program code into the ads. Maybe they submit legitimate code initially then change it for malicious code. Either way, those ads eventually get served up on your site. Either the ad javascript itself, or the places it takes your site visitors, or fake messages making your site visitor think their computer is infected. These ads violate the Federal Trade Commission laws on false advertising, but since everyone’s making money of[f] it, nobody complains.

   Well, not everyone’s making money. The publisher’s site gets blacklisted and it takes days for that to be lifted, so the earnings go down. Who gains? The hackers and Google.
   There’s something to be said sometimes about closing things off, especially if they are subject to abuse. The cited article dates from 2012, and a linked forum has posts going back to 2011, so these issues have gone on for some time. The latter makes for sobering reading, with quotations such as:

I recently was getting a daily notice where users were randomly getting malware warnings popping up on their browser when on my site. I shut off all Google Adsense and this immediately stopped.

I was too having a similar problem. Just the difference was that, the suspected cause was malicious Analytics Code. As soon as I removed, the entire problem was solved. Google must look into this as soon as possible.

I’ve reported this to them and posted in their help forums but they have been non responsive. It is definitely being delivered through Adsense and I suspect their ‘trusted 3rd party’ network.

   The other ad networks we deal with have done a better job with screening. Of the main ones we dealt with, I can only think of an incident back in 2007, with some fake Careerbuilder ads. Maybe we should turn the clock back—or the ad networks should insist that we not deal with certain parties.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, marketing, media, publishing, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Google clears our ad server of any malicious code, but continues to block our sites

06.04.2013

All of the sites that carry advertising from our ad server (ads.jyanet.com) were blacklisted by Google yesterday, including this one. In fact, Google still blacklists them, despite Google and Stop Badware clearing the server of any problems.
   Here’s the kicker: the code that was injected by hackers appears to be Google Adsense code. If true, this means that Google provides hackers with code, hackers use the code, Google blacklists the sites. Have a look below to see if that’s the case.
   I remember that any schmuck can get a Google Adsense account, so they aren’t choosy. (I applied for one many years ago, which I had for six months. Believe me, it was really easy.)
   If it is Google Adsense, it wouldn’t be the first time their own code was dodgy. There had been instances where McAfee, on my computer, blocked ads on one of our sites and, when investigated, those ads turned out to be Doubleclick ones, i.e. they were from Google’s own ad network. Very big sites get targeted—unfortunately, very big sites appear to get all-clears from big companies like Google rapidly (because they affect their bottom line more?).
   Whatever the source, the hackers used their code and decided to piggyback off legitimate ad-serving websites, including ours. We fixed the vulnerability that led to this within hours of learning about it, but, as usual, we’re disappointed that Google and Stop Badware haven’t caught up after over 24 hours that things are sorted.
   I’ve pasted the warning from Google below, a shot of our OpenX installation describing the code (it looks like Google Adsense to me—is it? Or is it just based on parameters of their code so the hackers’ Adsense account profits from the activity?) and a screen shot of where the dodgy stuff Google believes it came from, namely a domain owned by one William Oster in New York. (These are from my Tumblog.) [Note: Mr Oster might not even know about this and that his OpenX installation was the victim of the same hack. The hackers could well have placed the malware on his server and spread things from there.]

   I’d like the solution to be tougher guidelines on everyday users getting Adsense accounts. Let’s hope things are harder today than they were in the 2000s. There are a lot of honest people using Adsense, so it’s fine to argue that it’s unfair to affect everyone because of a few bad eggs. Every ad network needs to be more stringent on who can advertise, too.
   Most of the larger, legitimate ad networks that I know of make things stricter, and your site has to have proven traffic and a decent track record before they’ll let their ads be shown on them.
   My guess is that Google isn’t about to change its policies because it does very well from casting its net far and wide. The last I looked, the ad business was worth US$3,600 million to them.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, marketing, publishing, technology, USA | 4 Comments »


Occupy, the brand

27.11.2011

Serious! "Occupy Wall St"
VBlessNYC, under Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

It was in the fourth quarter of the year that Occupy became a brand. Just capitalize it, and everyone knows what you mean. The original geographical indicator of Wall Street disappeared—to be fair, it began disappearing when similar protests began happening across the United States and then, the world—but I’ve only noticed in the last few weeks that the simple utterance of the word Occupy brought with it a multitude of values. That’s what a brand does: it’s shorthand or code for a range of associations.
   But what associations? If one believes some of the media, then Occupy is unfocused, with its protesters simply upset at the status quo. Others see it as an attack on the technocratic agenda and the multiple facets they possess, whether it’s the financial system being broken (something Chris Macrae brought up at my first Medinge meeting back in 2002) or corruption in politics.
   The truth, at least initially, was probably somewhere in between. I never believed Occupy was one where there was some “protester class” (at least one media outlet believed that), and that its members came from a cross-section of society, even if a few of the international protests brought out a few of the usual suspects from antiestablishment groups. It was clear, early on, certainly from the social networks that brought more direct news than the mainstream corporate media, that everyday people were involved. To me, the most poignant images were probably that of retired cop Capt Ray Lewis getting cuffed by the NYPD.
   However, there were so many conflicting emotions at Occupy that it would be hard to sum up just what people opposed. Maybe it was very hard to voice because there are so many parts to the system that they see is broken. I know when we did our post-Enron session at Medinge, we probably had three dozen Post-It notes on a whiteboard summarizing what we thought was wrong with the business system. They were then synthesized into eight points, not without some effort.
   As the protests wore on, the synthesis has taken place. It’s not an unusual phenomenon: gatherings of people can take time to figure out, through dialogue, what their common grounds are. Better doing it this way, codifying through dialogue, than having a set of values imposed on you from above: it’s a way to preserve authenticity in the movement. A good set of values that represents an organization, in a formal, corporate setting, is usually the result of in-depth research into staff, channel members and external audiences. In the branding world, especially with social networks empowering communications, it makes more sense to harness people’s thoughts through the technology we have at our disposal.
   It was interesting reading what Naomi Wolf had to say about Occupy in The Guardian. The crux of her article is not about brand whatsoever—she highlights potentially dangerous patterns as crackdowns take place and their implication for the US—but read on and she finds out there are certain things that Occupy wants through simply asking its supporters online:

  • get the money out of politics (e.g. ‘legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process’);
  • ‘reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act … This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks’;
  • ‘draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.’

       No doubt there will be variations of these with Occupy movements in other parts of the planet.
       I don’t know Ms Wolf’s processes, or how academic this Q&A was, but perhaps that is not the question here. What we should realize is that the movement is taking a more defined shape, and the media’s contention that this is something unfocused is getting weaker by the day.

  • Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    Posted in branding, business, culture, internet, media, politics, USA | 2 Comments »


    How MG Rover mirrored the developments at Lada

    02.11.2010

    I still have Adam Curtis’s The Mayfair Set, a TV series charting the decline of British power and the rise of the technocracy, recorded on video cassette somewhere. I consider him someone who can see through the emperor having no clothes, and in The Mayfair Set, he certainly saw through the Empire having no clothes.
       As I type this, John Barry’s ‘Vendetta’ is going through my head as an earworm: the series used this piece as its theme tune.
       On my friend Keith Adams’s Facebook page was a link to Curtis’s blog at the BBC website, titled with a reference to another song, this time from Maurice Jarre’s Doctor Zhivago score. Curtis begins by saying that he uncovered a 1977 film about two British Leyland workers heading to Togliattigrad, where the Жигули (Zhiguli, or Lada to those of us outside the Soviet Bloc) was built.
    ВАЗ-2101   At Togliattigrad, the managers used the chaos that was allowed to prevail to set up their alternative economic structures to line their own pockets—and corruption was rife.
       He writes, ‘What then happened is murky, but it is alleged that the managers in effect looted their own factory.’
       So far, so good. It read as a story about the bad old days of communism—till Curtis draws the clear parallels between Togliattigrad and what happened in the last days of the remnants of British Leyland. The Phoenix Four used money meant for the plant for themselves.
       Curtis again: ‘The Phoenix directors systematically restructured the business. They did it in a way that ensured that many economic benefits flowed not to MG Rover and the thousands of workers, but to the directors themselves and the man they appointed chief executive of MG Rover.
       ‘The [government] report [into the collapse of MG Rover] is over 800 pages—and it is a fascinating snapshot of our time. It lists all sorts of schemes with names like “Project Slag”, “Project Platinum” and “Project Aircraft”—all of them designed to try and bring profits not into MG Rover but into the holding company set up by the Phoenix consortium.’
       No more western superiority here: chaos—whether in the political, social, cultural or commercial realms—breeds opportunity for many. The trick is always to ensure that the opportunists are those who can put things right, rather than selfishly benefit themselves.
    Beyond Branding cover   Some might see Curtis’s blog entry as a criticism of the monetarist, technocratic system—as was The Mayfair Set.
       But it is equally a story about how the absence of transparency breeds systems that benefit the few—regardless of whether the background is communism or capitalism.
       These are themes that we at the Medinge Group explored as early as 2003 in Beyond Branding, written in the wake of the Enron collapse. We’ve partly stayed on the same theme over the last eight years, because history shows us that transparency is often the enemy of inequity and unfairness. And even the technocracy.

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    Posted in branding, business, cars, leadership, politics, TV, UK | 1 Comment »