Saturday, December 31, 2016

Forty-Niners Honor Colin Kaepernick

When the 49ers announced their team awards Friday afternoon, Kaepernick was the recipient of the Len Eshmont Award, given to the 49er who "best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team." The award, which was established after Eshmont died in 1957, is considered the most prestigious honor the players vote on.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Post Retraction

Shouldn't that say "Correction" instead of "Editor's Note"?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Can You Feel the Love?

He's a nasty man, and if you don't think the vindictiveness will show itself in the next four years, you are fooling yourself.

Nailed It

Trump campaigned as a successful businessman. Rubbish. He’s a conman who created nothing but a brand name built on self-promotion. Now he’s monetizing the same brand with the presidency attached to it. The sleaze has just begun.

  Robert Reich

This Isn't Going to Go Away

The Democratic Party is in double-down mode, and all its supporters are going along.
The Washington Post on Friday reported an genuinely alarming event: Russian hackers have penetrated the U.S. power system through an electrical grid in Vermont. The Post headline conveyed the seriousness of the threat.


The first sentence of the article directly linked this cyber-attack to alleged Russian hacking of the email accounts of the DNC and John Podesta – what is now routinely referred to as “Russian hacking of our election.”

  Glenn Greenwald
Which hasn't even been proven, and seems at this point unlikely.

This is an extremely serious allegation and threat. If true, we're in serious shit. And, if not true, we're still in serious shit, because it means our government is now willing to fuck with our own democracy in the way it fucks with the rest of the world. A real threat of this magnitude could allow our government to claim a state of emergency and lock us down even tighter. In fact, why not refuse to allow Trump (or whoever comes after Trump) to take office when the country is under such a threat? I'm afraid I don't have any confidence that the Democratic Party of today wouldn't stoop to such levels. With their total screw up running Hillary for president and losing, they have become completely unhinged.
[Vermont]’s Democratic Governor, Peter Shumlin, said:
Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality-of-life, economy, health, and safety. This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling.
Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy issued a statement warning: “This is beyond hackers having electronic joy rides – this is now about trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter. That is a direct threat to Vermont and we do not take it lightly.”
Nor should you take it lightly. But you damned sure ought to have incontrovertible proof of what you're saying. And you don't.
The media reactions, as Alex Pfeiffer documents, were exactly what one would expect: hysterical, alarmist proclamations of Putin’s menacing evil.

What’s the problem here? It did not happen.

There was no “penetration of the U.S. electricity grid.” The truth was undramatic and banal. Burlington Electric, after receiving a Homeland Security notice sent to all U.S. utility companies about the malware code found in the DNC system, searched all their computers and found the code in a single laptop that was not connected to the electric grid.

Apparently, the Post did not even bother to contact the company before running its wildly sensationalistic claims, so they had to issue their own statement to the Burlington Free Press which debunked the Post’s central claim (emphasis in original): “We detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop NOT connected to our organization’s grid systems.”


[T]here is zero evidence that Russian hackers were responsible even for the implanting of this malware on this single laptop. [...] [A]s Jeffrey Carr has pointed out in the DNC hacking context, assuming that Russian-made malware must have been used by Russians is as irrational as finding a Russian-made Kalishnikov AKM rifle at a crime scene and assuming the killer must be Russian.
A lot of us would absolutely do that, too, though.
All the alarmist tough-guy statements issued by political officials who believed the Post’s claim were based on fiction.
Meaning we could be in deeper shit than we realize. And that's saying a lot.

The Post had to walk back it's first claims when called out on them, but the damage, dare I say, is done.
Moreover, nobody knows when this malware was put on this laptop, how, or by whom. But whatever else is true, the key claim – “Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid” – has now been replaced by the claim that this all shows “risk to U.S. electrical grid.”
Then fix the bloody system. That risk didn't just arise yesterday.  Electronic security has been a big issue ever since the Snowden affair and we still have powerful people, agencies and systems in the dark ages when it comes to internet security.
[This] level of group-think, fear-mongering, coercive peer-pressure, and über-nationalism has not been seen since the halcyon days of 2002 and 2003.


Indeed, the more unhinged it is, the greater the benefits [for social media] are (see some of the most extreme examples here). That’s how otherwise rational people keep getting tricked into posting and re-tweeting and sharing extremely dubious stories that turn out to be false.


[A]ny denunciation or accusation toward Trump or Russia, no matter how divorced from reason or devoid of facts, generates instant praise, while any questioning of it prompts instant peer-group denunciation, or worse.
Perfectly mirroring what happened when the Bush administration painted Saddam Hussein as the mastermind behind 9/11. And look where that got us. Look where that has gotten the entire world. And that wasn't even a fight picked with a nation powerful enough to actually rain down a nuclear holocaust.
In this case, the effect is a constant ratcheting up of tensions between two nuclear-armed powers whose nuclear systems are still on hair-trigger alert and capable of catastrophic responses based on misunderstanding and misperception. Democrats and their media allies are rightly alarmed about the potential dangers of Trump’s bellicose posture toward China, but remarkably and recklessly indifferent to the dangers of what they themselves are doing here.


Since it is so often distorted, permit me to once again to underscore my own view on the broader Russia issue: of course it is possible that Russia is responsible for these hacks, as this is perfectly consistent with (and far more mild than) what both Russia and the U.S. have done repeatedly for decades.

But given the stakes involved, along with the incentives for error and/or deceit, no rational person should be willing to embrace these accusations as Truth unless and until convincing evidence has been publicly presented for review, which most certainly has not yet happened.
If you're still buying the propaganda, please read scroll down in Greenwald's article to the end where he links several articles that counter all this dangerous red-baiting.  Or if you're keeping up with the insanity, you might bookmark and save the page for when you need to calm down your friends and neighbors.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

2016 Summary

I wish I knew who to credit for this.  

Friday, December 30, 2016

The New America: Silencing Whistleblowers, Controlling the Press

I used to be worried about the right wing. What used to be the left (the Democrat party) now looks vicious.

“I am a strong believer in the First Amendment and the need for journalists to pursue every lead and every angle,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with the Rutgers University student newspaper. “I think that when you hear stories about us cracking down on whistle-blowers or whatnot, we’re talking about a really small sample.

“Some of them are serious,” he continued, “where you had purposeful leaks of information that could harm or threaten operations or individuals who were in the field involved with really sensitive national security issues.”

  James Risen @ NYT
The evidence puts the lie to Obama's words.
Over the past eight years, the administration has prosecuted nine cases involving whistle-blowers and leakers, compared with only three by all previous administrations combined. It has repeatedly used the Espionage Act, a relic of World War I-era red-baiting, not to prosecute spies but to go after government officials who talked to journalists.

Under Mr. Obama, the Justice Department and the F.B.I. have spied on reporters by monitoring their phone records, labeled one journalist an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case for simply doing reporting and issued subpoenas to other reporters to try to force them to reveal their sources and testify in criminal cases.


Mr. Trump seems likely to enthusiastically embrace the aggressive crackdown on journalists and whistle-blowers that is an important yet little understood component of Mr. Obama’s presidential legacy.


“Obama has laid all the groundwork Trump needs for an unprecedented crackdown on the press,” said Trevor Timm, executive director of the nonprofit Freedom of the Press Foundation.


The Justice Department, facing mounting criticism from media organizations, has issued new guidelines setting restrictions on when the government could subpoena reporters to try to force them to reveal their sources. But those guidelines include a loophole allowing the Justice Department to continue to aggressively pursue investigations into news reports on national security, which covers most leak investigations. In addition, the guidelines aren’t codified in law and can be changed by the next attorney general.

More significantly, the Obama administration won a ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals [determining] that there was no such thing as a “reporter’s privilege” — the right of journalists not to testify about their confidential sources in criminal cases. The Fourth Circuit covers Virginia and Maryland, home to the C.I.A., the Pentagon and the National Security Agency, and thus has jurisdiction over most leak cases involving classified information.


Press freedom advocates already fear that under Senator Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump’s choice to be attorney general, the Justice Department will pursue journalists and their sources at least as aggressively as Mr. Obama did.
So either real investigative reporting by US jouranlists is going to become a thing of the past, or reporting is going to get back some of its lost honor when reporters become heroic. I'm not making any bets.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

P.S.  Whistleblowers or whatnot?

And Speaking of Fools

Does he really want to make the Democrats' case for them?

Willing Fools

We ought to have learned from the Judith Miller episode [writing about non-existent Iraq WMD in the New York Times]. Not only do governments lie, they won't hesitate to burn news agencies. In a desperate moment, they'll use any sucker they can find to get a point across.

I have no problem believing that Vladimir Putin tried to influence the American election. He's gangster-spook-scum of the lowest order and capable of anything. And Donald Trump, too, was swine enough during the campaign to publicly hope the Russians would disclose Hillary Clinton's emails. So a lot of this is very believable.

But we've been burned before in stories like this, to disastrous effect. Which makes it surprising we're not trying harder to avoid getting fooled again.

  Matt Taibbi @ Rolling Stone
No surprise, really. Anything that will rile us up against a perceived enemy is easy fodder for Americans being robbed and cheated by banksters, politicians and corporations, with no idea how to make it stop.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

And, Welcome to the New McCarthy Era

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

The Russian Hacking Question - Part Whatever, Second Addendum

Because most people who read these blog posts (all of perhaps four?) probably don't read the entire articles cited, I should have put this bit in the previous post citing Jeffrey Carr's article, because it's really the key.
If the White House had unclassified evidence that tied officials in the Russian government to the DNC attack, they would have presented it by now. The fact that they didn’t means either that the evidence doesn’t exist or that it is classified.

If it’s classified, an independent commission should review it because this entire assignment of blame against the Russian government is looking more and more like a domestic political operation run by the White House that relied heavily on questionable intelligence generated by a for-profit cybersecurity firm with a vested interest in selling “attribution-as-a-service”.


I'm not so sure an independent commission would clear it, after having seen some of the independent commission reports we've gotten in the past.  And if the Obama administration appoints it, I'm actually quite sure.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

The Russian Hacking Question - Part Whatever, Addendum

Here's an article by Jeffrey Carr, the cybersecurity consultant mentioned in the previous post, regarding the report that supposedly proves Russian government interference in the US election, and for which the Obama administration has just raised the stakes for another cold war with Russia - and hopefully not an actual war.
The FBI/DHS Joint Analysis Report (JAR) “Grizzly Steppe” was released yesterday as part of the White House’s response to alleged Russian government interference in the 2016 election process. It adds nothing to the call for evidence that the Russian government was responsible for hacking the DNC, the DCCC, the email accounts of Democratic party officials, or for delivering the content of those hacks to Wikileaks.

It merely listed every threat group ever reported on by a commercial cybersecurity company that is suspected of being Russian-made and lumped them under the heading of Russian Intelligence Services (RIS) without providing any supporting evidence that such a connection exists.

Continue reading.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

The Russian Hacking Question - Part Whatever

Donald Trump’s rebuttal (“I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the D.N.C. . . . It could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs four hundred pounds, okay?”) earned him only derision. But a closer examination of what few facts are known about the hack suggests that Trump may have been onto something.


As [Jeffrey Carr, the CEO of cybersecurity firm Taia Global], a rare skeptic regarding the official line on the hacks, explained to me, “They’re basically saying that the Russian intelligence services are completely inept. That one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing, that they have no concern about using a free Russian email account or a Russian server that has already been known to be affiliated with cybercrime. This makes them sound like the Keystone Cops. Then, in the same breath, they’ll say how sophisticated Russia’s cyberwarfare capabilities are.”

In reality, Carr continued, “It’s almost impossible to confirm attribution in cyberspace.”


“It doesn’t take much to leave a trail of bread crumbs to whichever government you want to blame for an attack,” Carr pointed out.


As for the most serious intrusion into the democratic process — the election-system hacks — the intelligence agencies took a pass. Although many of those breaches had come from “servers operated by a Russian company,” the statement read, the United States was “not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian Government.”

The company in question is owned by Vladimir Fomenko, a twenty-six-year-old entrepreneur based in Siberia. In a series of indignant emails, Fomenko informed me that he merely rents out space on his servers, which are scattered throughout several countries, and that hackers have on occasion used his facilities for criminal activities “without our knowledge.” Although he has “information that undoubtedly will help the investigation,” Fomenko complained that nobody from the U.S. government had contacted him. He was upset that the FBI had “found it necessary to make a loud statement through the media” when he would have happily assisted them. Furthermore, these particular “criminals” had stiffed him $290 in rental fees.

A good rule of thumb:  always be skeptical of your own government.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.


McAfee Anti-Virus Founder Weighs in on Russia Hacking Claims

[John] McAfee is no stranger to cybersecurity. As the developer of the first commercial antivirus program, he has been a major player in the industry for the past 50 years. He is also the CEO of MGT Capital Investments, and an outspoken former presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party.

Based on all of his experience, McAfee does not believe that Russians were behind the hacks on the Democratic National Committee (DNC), John Podesta’s emails, and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. As he told RT, “if it looks like the Russians did it, then I can guarantee you it was not the Russians.”

I don't know what a guarantee from John McAfee is worth. His software program wasn't the best. Hopefully, it's improved. But, I'd be inclined to agree with him on this: if it looks like the Russians, it's probably not. It's more likely a set-up. Also, there haven't been any new revelations to counter the objections to the claim yet.
The Joint Analysis Report from the FBI contains an appendix that lists hundreds of IP addresses that were supposedly “used by Russian civilian and military intelligence services.” While some of those IP addresses are from Russia, the majority are from all over the world, which means that the hackers constantly faked their location.


“If I was the Chinese and I wanted to make it look like the Russians did it, I would use Russian language within the code, I would use Russian techniques of breaking into the organization,” McAfee said, adding that, in the end, “there simply is no way to assign a source for any attack.”
Now THAT is, I believe accurate and key. And don't forget, the reason the hack into John Podesta's emails was successful is that he clicked on a phishing link - something any halfway savvy person this day and age knows not to do. That's a very low-level method of hacking. It barely rises to the level of hacking.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

When We Go Low, They Go High

President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would not expel anyone in response to Washington's decision to throw out 35 suspected Russian spies and sanction intelligence agencies it believes were involved in computer hacking in the 2016 presidential election.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier proposed expelling 35 U.S. diplomats after outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the expulsions and sanctions on Thursday.

But Putin said he would wait for the actions of President-elect Donald Trump, who will take office on Jan. 20, before deciding on any further steps in relations with the United States.


In withering remarks, Putin even invited U.S. diplomats and their families to a party in the Kremlin.

Taking the opportunity to look magnanimous. We've been handing Putin gold lately - increasingly since invading Iraq, and ramping up with the Snowden affair.

It appears to me that the US is awfully close to exchanging places with Russia in the global political sphere. Will future movies show the US as a repressive, evil government, torturing and spying on its own citizens, while Russia is depicted as an open, democratic society?
The U.S. sanctions also closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland that the administration said were used by Russian personnel for "intelligence-related purposes".


The Russians have 72 hours to leave the United States, the official said. Access to the two compounds will be denied to all Russian officials as of noon on Friday.


Russian officials have portrayed the sanctions as a last act of a lame-duck president and suggested that Trump could reverse them when he takes over the White House.

"Further steps towards the restoration of Russian-American relations will be built on the basis of the policy which the administration of President D. Trump will carry out," said Putin.


Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was more outspoken in his criticism. "It is regrettable that the Obama administration, which started out by restoring our ties, is ending its term in an anti-Russia death throes. RIP," he wrote on his official Facebook page.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the Obama administration "a group of embittered and dimwitted foreign policy losers".
There are very few adults left in politics.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Guardian Corrects Its "Fake News" Regarding Julian Assange

This is good. But it's also a cautionary tale. Had it not been for the wide audience Glenn Greenwald has, it's very unlikely that the Guardian would have corrected its article. Propaganda is important. Journalism is important.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

You're Intelligent, But Are You Smart?

Here's a BBC article on James Flynn's research showing that the average IQ in the world today has risen dramatically over a short period of time, probably due to the rise in technology. You might want to read it all, but here are what I think are some salient excerpts from the conclusion:
Despite the gains in IQ, [Flynn] worries that we aren’t engaging our minds effectively on the issues that matter. “I’m not being gloomy but actually the major intellectual thing that disturbs me is that young people like you are reading less history and less serious novels than you used to,” he says, arguing that we should have a background in the crises that have shaped world history before we form opinions on current politics. He chastises me for my lack of knowledge of Europe’s Thirty Years’ War, for instance, which he believes has many parallels with today’s conflicts in the Middle East.


George Orwell, he says, painted a dystopia where the government rewrites history to control and manipulate the population. “But all you need are ‘ahistorical’ people who then live in the bubble of the present, and by fashioning that bubble the government and the media can do anything they want with them,” Flynn adds.


“Reading literature and reading history is the only thing that’s going to capitalise on the IQ gains of the 20th Century and make them politically relevant.”

It seems quite obvious to me that we do "live in the bubble of the present" at least in this country.  And, while that's crucial to making our way through each day, it seems like a certain way to make the wrong decisions when it comes to political affairs.  But, reading history isn't necessarily the antidote, because there is a lot of political literature that's bullshit, and even - or maybe especially - the textbook history every nation provides its children is heavily weighted to a nationalist view, and not necessarily a historically accurate (or complete) one.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

h/t Gitari

Thursday, December 29, 2016

This Is What Happens When You Paint Yourself Into a Corner

The Obama administration on Thursday announced its retaliation for what US intelligence services believe to be Russian efforts to interfere with the US presidential election, ordering sweeping new sanctions that included the expulsion of 35 Russians and the closure of two Russian compounds in the US.


“I have issued an executive order that provides additional authority for responding to certain cyber activity that seeks to interfere with or undermine our election processes and institutions, or those of our allies or partners,” Obama said in the statement, released while he vacations with his family in Hawaii.

“Using this new authority, I have sanctioned nine entities and individuals: the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.

Obama added that more actions would be taken, “some of which will not be publicized”.


In Moscow, a Putin spokesman said Russia regretted the new sanctions and would consider retaliatory measures.


On Capitol Hill, Democrats applauded the president’s action, called for further measures and emphasized bipartisan support for a thorough investigation into Russian hacking.


“While today’s action by the administration is overdue,” House speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement, “it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia. And it serves as a prime example of this administration’s ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world.”

Are we not putting the cart before the horse? First come sanctions, then comes the thorough investigation?

Seems to be the new American guideline for foreign policy.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Guardian vs. Julian Assange

Julian Assange is a deeply polarizing figure. Many admire him and many despise him.This article, instead, is about a report published this week by the Guardian which recklessly attributed to Assange comments that he did not make. This article is about how those false claims – fabrications, really – were spread all over the internet by journalists, causing hundreds of thousands of people (if not millions) to consume false news. The purpose of this article is to underscore, yet again, that those who most flamboyantly denounce Fake News, and want Facebook and other tech giants to suppress content in the name of combatting it, are often the most aggressive and self-serving perpetrators of it.

Continue reading.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

UPDATE:  The Guardian has corrected its article.

Who Says the Chinese Don't Like Trump?

Chinese retailers have found inspiration from him.
A shopping mall in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, has erected a giant rooster sculpture that has Trump’s signature hairstyle, facial expression and hand gestures.

The designer of the sculpture said its egg-shaped body and golden Trump-like hair deliver the message of “getting rich”, according to Phototimes, a social media news outlet run by Tencent. The egg is a symbol of fertility and prosperity in Chinese culture.


Wei Wei, who owns a company that produces inflatable decorations, said he started to offer the figure online after seeing photos of the sculpture on news media.

“The design is very special,” he told the South China Morning Post. “It is the year of rooster, and Trump is about to take office. We have named it the Inflatable Trump Rooster.”

And that is how I'm going to refer to Trump from now on.

Some History of the Middle East

These two videos are quick, graphic illustrations of the changing and contentious Middle East from pre-WWI to the present.  Offered here as a reminder of the reasons for and importance of Israel/Palestinian conflict.  Check them out.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Recently, from the Chief Twit

Thanks, Donald?  Does he not know that's him?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

War Is Peace

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

HyperNormalisation Convo

Yes, this is good.

Here's the documentary:

And here's a negative review of the film: Another Manager of Perceptions

I think Glenn Greenwald will have some comment on that review, so if you're curious, come back tomorrow and see if I've added anything from him.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

The Most Presidential

Donald Trump will continue to tweet as president, according to incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who predicted that Trump’s engagement with supporters via social media will be “a really exciting part of the job.”

“I think that his use of social media in particular … is gonna be something that’s never been seen before,” Spicer told Rhode Island news station WPRI in an interview published Monday.


No doubt. No doubt.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.


...but hey, do what you will anyway.

RIP Russian Red Army Choir Members

Perhaps you know that 60 members of the Red Army choir were killed in a plane crash recently.

Perhaps you didn't ever hear the choir sing.

I'm trying to imagine what would happen in the US if the US Army Chorus sang Russian anthems.

Netanyahu Investigation

A months-long inquiry into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s affairs took a new twist on Monday, with police reportedly convinced that they will be able to open a full-blown criminal investigation against him in the next few days.

  Times of Israel
If they live free that long.
Police recently received new documents as part of a secret inquiry that began almost nine months ago, Channel 2 reported. Based on those files police have already turned to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit requesting that he allow them to open a full criminal investigation. The report stated that among the suspected offenses are bribe-taking and aggravated fraud.
No problem regarding illegal settlements into the West Bank and Gaza.
A spokesperson for the prime minister said that “it’s all nonsense,” Haaretz reported. “Since Netanyahu’s victory in the last elections and even before, hostile elements have made heroic efforts to attempt to bring about [Netanyahu’s] downfall, with false accusations against him and his family. This [latest attempt] is absolutely false. There was nothing and there will be nothing.”
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Now Comes the US Ambassador

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has summoned the US ambassador to Israel [Dan Shapiro] hours after envoys of all other UN Security Council members were asked to appear before the foreign ministry for voting for a resolution condemning settlements on Palestinian territories.

No report yet on whether he was "severely reprimanded" as was stated about 10 other ambassadors who were called in earlier.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

UK Scrooge

Stay on your feet or stay down, auld lovies.

But really, that's where capitalism ultimately leads, isn't it?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

War on Christmas

Why won't the FBI say "Merry Christmas"? Putin.

P.S. I don't have an FBI family. But thanks.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

We're Blaming This on Russia?

Seriously, Europe doesn't need any help in either direction, far-right extremists or destabilization.  They're doing a smashing job of both those things on their own.  I'd lay more blame on the 2008 financial meltdown caused by the banksters and the flood of refugees from places the US has destabilized before I'd look to Russia.  But then, I'm not the New York Times.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.


Christmas Past

Less than two hours before announcing his resignation as president of the Soviet Union on Dec. 25, 1991, Mikhail S. Gorbachev placed a telephone call to President George H. W. Bush, who was celebrating Christmas with his grandchildren at Camp David.


What follows is the last conversation between the two men as the leaders of the two superpowers — now partners rather than Cold War rivals. The warmth and appreciation they have for each other is evident, as is their pride in having accomplished so much together. Continue reading the main story

Mr. Gorbachev sounds high-minded and statesmanlike as he discusses the future, asking Mr. Bush to support Mr. Yeltsin and Russia’s reforms, and to help the former Soviet republics achieve separation without disintegrating further. Mr. Gorbachev expresses his own determination to support Mr. Yeltsin despite the latter’s instrumental role in breaking up the Soviet Union, and to remain active in political life. He also tells Mr. Bush how much he values “our cooperation together, our partnership and friendship.” Mr. Bush responds with praise and affection. The American president would come to miss this unprecedented partnership, which helped transform the world.

Whoever imagined we'd miss George H.W. Bush?

Read more.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Trump Administration Pick Backs Out

Jason Miller, who was tapped only two days ago to be White House communications director, announced Saturday that he will not join Donald Trump’s administration.

In a statement to POLITICO, Miller said the decision to back out of the job stemmed from a need to spend more time with his family.

Isn't that recognized as code for something bad was about to come out?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Donald Trump’s inner circle was thrown into turmoil Saturday when his newly-named White House communications director resigned after a transition team staffer posted cryptic tweets suggesting he’s a philanderer.

  NY Daily News
Honestly, I didn't think THAT was a problem in this administration. Unless, of course, it was homosexual philandering. But that doesn't seem to be te issue.
AJ Delgado, a senior advisor in Trump’s transition team, posted several tweets hinting that Miller was at the center of a sex scandal.

“Congratulations to the baby-daddy on being named WH Comms Director!” she wrote in one now-deleted tweet.

“The 2016 version of John Edwards,” she wrote in another, referring to the disgraced ex-Democratic senator who fathered a child with his mistress.


Miller and Delgado have been the subject of salacious headlines once before.

The pair were reportedly among a trio of Trump senior advisors who spent the night before the third and final presidential debate partying at a Las Vegas strip club.
That shouldn't disqualify either of them from this administration. Sounds to me like Delgado might have caused a bigger ruckus about something more involved had Miller stayed on. Maybe she has pictures from that night in Vegas. Still, they'd have to be awfully lurid to make a difference after what the Trumpster has been caught doing.

No kidding.

If You Weren't Already Aware: Netanyahu Is Unhinged

Israel has summoned the ambassadors of UN Security Council member states that voted in favour of a resolution condemning settlement activity, a foreign ministry spokesman said.


The United States envoy was not summoned.


"We have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated the drafts and demanded to pass it," Netanyahu said at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting.

Really? Because every other time they've tried to pass this resolution, they've all voted in favor, and the US vetoed it.
Earlier on Sunday, army radio reported that Lieberman ordered Israeli security establishment to cease to all cooperation on civilian matters with the Palestinians, while retaining security coordination.
Well, that should make people regret their vote.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

UPDATE 7:00PM:  The US Ambassador has been summoned.

Where's the Family? And Why the Fist?

Will France Go, Too?

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said that NATO exists only ‘to serve Washington’s objectives’, and that she planned to hold a Brexit-style referendum, in an interview with a Greek newspaper.

Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right National Front and a candidate for the 2017 presidential elections, is known for her Euroscepticism and anti-immigrant views.


Along with her main rival, the center-right Francois Fillon, Le Pen has called for closer ties with Russia and has criticized NATO expansion into eastern Europe.


“It was established when there was a risk from the Warsaw Pact and the expansionism of the communist Soviet Union,” said Le Pen. “The Soviet Union no longer exists, and neither does the Warsaw Pact. Washington maintains the NATO presence to serve its objectives in Europe.”

Is "the New World Order" doomed?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

The Queen Is Ill

The Queen has missed the annual Christmas morning church service at Sandringham for the first time in almost 30 years as she continues to fight a heavy cold.

If it weren't Christmas, I'd make some comment like: Do you suppose she's human after all?
The 90-year-old Queen and Prince Philip, 95, were forced to fly to their Sandringham estate in Norfolk by helicopter on Thursday after their initial Christmas plans to travel by train were cancelled because of ill health.


In a statement on Wednesday, Buckingham Palace said: “The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have heavy colds, and so have decided not to travel to Sandringham today.”


Prince Philip was well enough to attend the service.
And spread that cold around.

Merry Christmas from the Office of Benjamin Netanyahu

And you thought Donald Trump was about to rule the US. Nope. The PM of Israel speaks for us.

A "call to arms"?  Does that mean to take up arms against the UN?

(In a move akin to the Trumpster, there are fifteen tweets whingeing about the resolution, not likely tweeted by the PM himself, however.)

Merry Xmas

Saturday, December 24, 2016


What to Do Now?

An Interview with Julian Assange

In these ten years of WikiLeaks, you and your organisation have experienced all sorts of attacks. What have you learned from this warfare?

"Power is mostly the illusion of power. The Pentagon demanded we destroy our publications. We kept publishing. Clinton denounced us and said we were an attack on the entire "international community". We kept publishing. I was put in prison and under house arrest. We kept publishing. We went head to head with the NSA getting Edward Snowden out of Hong Kong, we won and got him asylum. Clinton tried to destroy us and was herself destroyed. Elephants, it seems, can be brought down with string. Perhaps there are no elephants".


"My conclusion is that most power structures are deeply incompetent, staffed by people who don't really believe in their institutions and that most power is the projection of the perception of power. And the more secretively it works, the more incompetent it is, because secrecy breeds incompetence, while openness breeds competence, because one can see and can compare actions and see which one is more competent. To keep up these appearances, institutional heads or political heads such as presidents spend most of the time trying to walk in front of the train and pretending that it is following them, but the direction is set by the tracks and by the engine of the train. Understanding that means that small and committed organisations can outmanoeuvre these institutional dinosaurs, like the State Department, the NSA or the CIA".
Read it all.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Look Who Didn't Object to the UN Resolution Decision

Regarding the Popular Vote

Maybe California has a right to run the country. They've been subsidizing it for years.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.


No, Taxpayers Shouldn't Bail Out the DNC

A former White House official cautioned that any U.S. government attempt to counter the flow of foreign state-backed disinformation through deterrence would face major political, legal and moral obstacles.

"You would have to have massive surveillance and curtailed freedom and that is a cost we have not been willing to accept,” said the former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They (Russia) can control distribution of information in ways we don't."

In other words, free speech in America is a hazard. Perhaps it should be further curtailed. After all, it's just one of those freedoms they hate us for. Maybe if we didn't have so much, they would like us.
A defense spending pill passed this month calls for the State Department to establish a "Global Engagement Center" to take on some of that work, but similar efforts to counter less sophisticated Islamic State narratives have fallen short.
I'm pretty sure they don't mean "pill".  Ministry of Propaganda will now be formalized.  I wonder if part of their mission will be to hack other countries' elections.
James Lewis, a cyber security expert at the Center for Strategic & International Studies who has worked for the departments of State and Commerce and the U.S. military, said Washington needed to move beyond antiquated notions of projecting influence if it hoped to catch up with Russia.

"They have RT and all we know how to do is send a carrier battle group," Lewis said. "We're going to be stuck until we find a way deal with that."
Jesus, James, we have Fox, MSNBC and CNN. That's three to one.  Not to mention USAID and the CIA.
Watts, who said he has tracked tens of thousands of pro-Russia Twitter handles since 2014, believes many of the most effective stories stoke fear of war or other calamities or promote a narrative of corrupt Western politicians, media and other elites.
Oh yes, thanks for reminding me. What about our own government's "Cuban Twitter" account?

Also, Watts: we don't have corrupt politicians, media and other elites?
Former workers of the Democratic National Committee, one of the groups infiltrated by Russian-backed hackers, said the U.S. government should consider providing funding for the technological defense of major political parties. They said that once hacked emails began appearing online, party functionaries were constantly behind in responding.
Tell me again, how much money did the DNC and Hillary raise for her campaign?

They couldn't purchase a little cyber security with some of that?  They need taxpayers, many of whom voted against her, to do that for them?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Getting Randy

Damn.  A man with a portrait of Mark Twain on his office wall can't be bad.  (I'm assuming that's Paul's office.)

Okay, well, there is that.  He's a Libertarian through and through.  Can I accurately describe Libertarians as Laissez-Faire Capitalists?

I have a feeling we'll be seeing Senator Paul in 2020's run for the catbird seat.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

It's a Wonder We're All Still Here

On June 3, 1980, at about two-thirty in the morning, computers at the National Military Command Center, [...] the Pentagon’s alternate command post center hidden inside Raven Rock Mountain, Pennsylvania, issued an urgent warning: the Soviet Union had just launched a nuclear attack on the United States.


General William Odom [called Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski] to inform him that two hundred and twenty missiles launched from Soviet submarines were heading toward the United States. Brzezinski told Odom to get confirmation of the attack. A retaliatory strike would have to be ordered quickly; Washington might be destroyed within minutes. Odom called back and offered a correction: twenty-two hundred Soviet missiles had been launched.


As [Brzezinski] prepared to call Carter and recommend an American counterattack, the phone rang for a third time. Odom apologized—it was a false alarm. An investigation later found that a defective computer chip in a communications device at NORAD headquarters had generated the erroneous warning. The chip cost forty-six cents.

A similar false alarm had occurred the previous year, when someone mistakenly inserted a training tape, featuring a highly realistic simulation of an all-out Soviet attack, into one of NORAD’s computers. During the Cold War, false alarms were also triggered by the moon rising over Norway, the launch of a weather rocket from Norway, a solar storm, sunlight reflecting off high-altitude clouds, and a faulty A.T. & T. telephone switch in Black Forest, Colorado.


In perhaps the most dangerous incident, [during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962] the captain of a Soviet submarine mistakenly believed that his vessel was under attack by U.S. warships and ordered the firing of a torpedo armed with a nuclear warhead. His order was blocked by a fellow officer. Had the torpedo been fired, the United States would have retaliated with nuclear weapons. At the height of the crisis, while leaving the White House on a beautiful fall evening, McNamara had a strong feeling of dread—and for good reason: “I feared I might never live to see another Saturday night.”


Today, the odds of a nuclear war being started by mistake are low—and yet the risk is growing, as the United States and Russia drift toward a new cold war.


[T]he United States has four hundred and forty Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, sitting in underground silos scattered across the plains of Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota. The missiles are kept on alert, at all times, ready to take off within two minutes, as a means of escaping a surprise attack. Each missile carries a nuclear warhead that may be as much as thirty times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.


In 2013, the two-star general in charge of the entire Minuteman force was removed from duty after going on a drunken bender during a visit to Russia, behaving inappropriately with young Russian women, asking repeatedly if he could sing with a Beatles cover band at a Mexican restaurant in Moscow, and insulting his military hosts. The following year, almost a hundred Minuteman launch officers were disciplined for cheating on their proficiency exams. In 2015, three launch officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base, in Montana, were dismissed for using illegal drugs, including ecstasy, cocaine, and amphetamines. That same year, a launch officer at Minot Air Force Base, in North Dakota, was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for heading a violent street gang, distributing drugs, sexually assaulting a girl under the age of sixteen, and using psilocybin, a powerful hallucinogen. As the job title implies, launch officers are entrusted with the keys for launching intercontinental ballistic missiles.


The Minuteman III is a relic of the Cold War not only in design but also in its strategic purpose. The locations of the silos, chosen more than half a century ago, make the missile useful only for striking targets inside Russia. The silos aren’t hardened enough to survive a nuclear detonation, and their coördinates are well known, so the Minuteman III is extremely vulnerable to attack. The President would be under great pressure, at the outset of a war with Russia, to “use them or lose them.” The missiles now have two principal roles in America’s nuclear-war plans: they can be launched as part of a first strike, or they can be launched when early-warning satellites have determined that Russian warheads are heading toward the United States. After being launched, a Minuteman III cannot be remotely disabled, disarmed, or called back.


Barack Obama, while running for President in 2008, promised to take Minuteman missiles off alert, warning that policies like launch-on-warning “increase the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation.” Twenty scientists who have won the Nobel Prize, as well as the Union of Concerned Scientists, have expressed strong opposition to retaining a launch-on-warning capability. It has also been opposed by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State George Shultz, and former Senator Sam Nunn. And yet the Minuteman III missiles still sit in their silos today, armed with warheads, ready to go.


At about one-thirty in the morning, on October 23, 2010, fifty Minuteman III missiles deployed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, in Wyoming, suddenly went offline. Launch officers could no longer communicate with their missiles.


The Air Force denied that someone had hacked into the computer network and disabled the missiles. A subsequent investigation found that a circuit card, improperly installed in a weapon-systems processor, had been dislodged by routine vibration and heat. The misalignment of the circuit card sent messages to the missiles in the wrong timing sequence. [...] Throughout the day, at designated times, each control center sends a signal to the missiles, checks their status, and receives a reply. By disrupting the time sequence, the misaligned circuit board created a cacophony of signals and blocked all communication with the missiles. The system jammed itself.


About five thousand miles of underground cable link the control centers to the missiles, as part of the Hardened Intersite Cable System. The cable mainly traverses privately owned land. “One of the difficult parts about fixing missile cable is . . . that the wires are no longer in production,” a newslettetor, and flew home undetected. In 2012, the Stuxnet computer worm infiltrated computers running Microsoft Windows at nuclear sites in Iran, collected information about the industrial process there, and then issued instructions that destroyed hundreds of centrifuges enriching uranium. A similar worm could surreptitiously enter a nuclear command-and-control system, lie dormant for years, and then create havoc. [ed: emphasis mine.]


The system is “air-gapped,” meaning that its networks are closed: someone can’t just go onto the Internet and tap into a computer at a Minuteman III control center. At least, that’s the theory. [ed: see graphic below]


General James Cartwright—the former head of the U.S. Strategic Command who recently pleaded guilty to leaking information about Stuxnet—thinks that it’s reasonable to believe the system has already been penetrated. “You’ve either been hacked, and you’re not admitting it, or you’re being hacked and don’t know it,” Cartwright said last year.


The ability to launch missiles by radio serves as a backup to the control centers—and also creates an entry point into the network that could be exploited in a cyberattack. The messages sent within the nuclear command-and-control system are highly encrypted. Launch codes are split in two, and no single person is allowed to know both parts. But the complete code is stored in computers—where it could be obtained or corrupted by an insider.


Close encounters between the military aircraft of the United States and Russia have become routine, creating the potential for an unintended conflict. Many of the nuclear-weapon systems on both sides are aging and obsolete. The personnel who operate those systems often suffer from poor morale and poor training. None of their senior officers has firsthand experience making decisions during an actual nuclear crisis. And today’s command-and-control systems must contend with threats that barely existed during the Cold War: malware, spyware, worms, bugs, viruses, corrupted firmware, logic bombs, Trojan horses, and all the other modern tools of cyber warfare.


The N.S.A. is responsible for generating and encrypting the nuclear launch codes.
  New Yorker
And that alone is cause for concern, as Ed Snowden showed us just how secure the NSA is.
In 2013, General C. Robert Kehler, the head of the U.S. Strategic Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the risk of cyberattacks on the nuclear command-and-control system. He expressed confidence that the U.S. system was secure. When Senator Bill Nelson asked if somebody could hack into the Russian or Chinese systems and launch a ballistic missile carrying a nuclear warhead, Kehler replied, “Senator, I don’t know . . . I do not know.”


After the debacle of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet Union became much more reluctant to provoke a nuclear confrontation with the United States. Its politburo was a committee of conservative old men. Russia’s leadership is quite different today. The current mix of nationalism, xenophobia, and vehement anti-Americanism in Moscow is a far cry from the more staid and secular ideology guiding the Soviet Union in the nineteen-eighties.
And Democrats have been poking them with a stick for weeks.

And, quite frankly, I'm not at all confident in General Kehler's confidence that the US system is secure.
Putin has described an important lesson he learned as a young man in Leningrad: “When a fight is inevitable, you have to hit first.”


The President of the United States has the sole power to order the use of nuclear weapons, without any legal obligation to consult members of Congress or the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ideally, the President would never be short-tempered, impulsive, or clinically depressed. But the mood of the Commander-in-Chief may be irrelevant in a nuclear crisis, given the current technological constraints. Can any human being reliably make the correct decision, within six minutes, with hundreds of millions of lives at stake?


The “Titanic Effect” is a term used by software designers to explain how things can quietly go wrong in a complex technological system: the safer you assume the system to be, the more dangerous it is becoming.


Last year, General James Mattis, the former Marine chosen by Trump to serve as Secretary of Defense, called for a fundamental reappraisal of American nuclear strategy and questioned the need for land-based missiles. During Senate testimony, Mattis suggested that getting rid of such missiles would “reduce the false-alarm danger.”
So it seems both our ultimate risk and our best hope lie in the Trump administration.

And by the way, the new arms race has already begun.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Israel Retaliating

It's more than OK.  It's karmically required.  But it would never happen.

I think I just made up a word.  But you get my point.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Ready for 2020?

President-elect Donald Trump has yet to take office, but pollsters have already begun to dip their toes into the next presidential cycle.


Just over 22% of respondents said Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party's failed candidate in the 2016 election, would excite them, while almost 15% said her running in 2020 would "make no difference" and about 62% said she should not run.

Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders both fared about twice as well as Clinton, but still failed to elicit excitement from a majority of respondents.

Jesus, they'll be lucky to still be alive. How old are these folks in four years? Sorry to be ageist, but hey. Really.
If he were to run and win, the current vice president would be 78 years old at the time of taking office. Sanders would be 79, and Trump would be 74.

Meanwhile, about a third of respondents said they would be excited by a 2020 bid from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
That's more like it.
Just under 50% of respondents said the [electoral college] system should stay in place, with almost 42% saying the Constitution should be amended to use the popular vote instead and just over 8% responding undecided.
Let me guess. The 42% were all Democrats.

You know, it sounds good: 1 person -1 vote. But the more heavily populated urban areas would always hold the winning hand. Why not just have California run the country? Unless we also plan on having ranked choice voting and giving states rights higher priority. This is a messy business.  I'm glad I don't have to run it. And believe me, you're glad of that, too.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Jesus H Christ

Is there anyone other than themselves Hillary and her team haven't blamed for her loss? Now she's added Obama "for failing to control the scandal in relation to emails she sent while serving as the state secretary."

Was he supposed to jail every reporter in the country? Apparently, she's not only not responsible for her loss to Trump, she's not responsible for using a private email server.
The former first lady spoke publicly for the first time to address the Russian hacking controversy during a recent fund-raising event in New York. She accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of taking his own “personal beef” with her to another level.

Talk about narcissists.
Speaking to a group of donors in Manhattan, Mrs. Clinton said that Mr. Putin, the Russian president, had never forgiven her for the accusation she made in 2011, when she was secretary of state, that parliamentary elections his country held that year were rigged.

“Putin publicly blamed me for the outpouring of outrage by his own people, and that is the direct line between what he said back then and what he did in this election,” Mrs. Clinton said.


“Make no mistake, as the press is finally catching up to the facts, which we desperately tried to present to them during the last months of the campaign,” Mrs. Clinton told the group, which collectively poured roughly $1 billion into her effort.

A billion dollars?! What the hell is she fundraising for now? Recovering some campaign expenditures?
Mrs. Clinton said the hacking was one of two “unprecedented” events that led to her defeat. The other was the release of a letter by James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, shortly before the election disclosing new questions about emails handled by her private server. The letter, she said, cost her close races in several battleground states.

“Swing-state voters made their decisions in the final days breaking against me because of the F.B.I. letter from Director Comey,” she said.
Yes, dear. All those bad men caused you to lose. It's so unfair.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Merry Christmas Response

American Journalism & Rising Authoritarian Regimes

Here's an interesting (short) article on US journalists as Mussolini and Hitler were rising to power in their respective countries. Concluding excerpt:
By the later 1930s, most U.S. journalists realized their mistake in underestimating Hitler or failing to imagine just how bad things could get. (Though there remained infamous exceptions, like Douglas Chandler, who wrote a loving paean to “Changing Berlin” for National Geographic in 1937.) Dorothy Thompson, who judged Hitler a man of “startling insignificance” in 1928, realized her mistake by mid-decade when she, like Mowrer, began raising the alarm.

“No people ever recognize their dictator in advance,” she reflected in 1935. “He never stands for election on the platform of dictatorship. He always represents himself as the instrument [of] the Incorporated National Will.” Applying the lesson to the U.S., she wrote, “When our dictator turns up you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American.”

Here's a bit more from Ms. Thompson after her meeting with Hitler just before he came to power:
He was admitting that he planned to create a dictatorship, and she believed he was telling the truth. But she couldn’t believe that this “Little Man” could actually succeed in that grandiose goal. “Imagine a would-be dictator setting out to persuade a sovereign people to vote away their rights.” That idea seemed preposterous to her.

She handicapped his chances in the upcoming election: The possibility that Hitler’s party would win a majority of seats in the Reichstag was, she said, “unlikely.” But if no party received a majority, it was “quite possible” that the Nazis could win enough seats to bring Hitler to power in a coalition with centrist parties. “But it is highly improbable that in this case he will succeed in putting through any of his more radical plans.”

As she interviewed Hitler, she pictured him trying to outmaneuver the skilled politicians who would be part of his ruling coalition.


He was admitting that he planned to create a dictatorship, and she believed he was telling the truth. But she couldn’t believe that this “Little Man” could actually succeed in that grandiose goal. “Imagine a would-be dictator setting out to persuade a sovereign people to vote away their rights.” That idea seemed preposterous to her. She handicapped his chances in the upcoming election: The possibility that Hitler’s party would win a majority of seats in the Reichstag was, she said, “unlikely.” But if no party received a majority, it was “quite possible” that the Nazis could win enough seats to bring Hitler to power in a coalition with centrist parties. “But it is highly improbable that in this case he will succeed in putting through any of his more radical plans.” As she interviewed Hitler, she pictured him trying to outmaneuver the skilled politicians who would be part of his ruling coalition.

Maybe I'm comparing Trump to Hitler, but certainly I'm comparing his American supporters to the Germans in 1930.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.