19 November 2017

Well, You Could Talk with Die Linke

Angela Merkel's negotiations to form a government have collapsed:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged early Monday to maintain stability after the Free Democratic Party pulled out of talks on forming a new government with her conservative bloc and the left-leaning Greens, raising the possibility of new elections.

Merkel told reporters that the parties had been close to reaching a consensus on how to proceed with formal coalition talks but that the Free Democrats decided abruptly to pull out just before midnight Sunday — a move she said she respected, but found “regrettable.”

She said she would consult with Germany’s president later in the day to brief him on the negotiations and discuss what comes next.

Without bringing the Free Democrats back to the table, Merkel will be forced to try to continue her current governing coalition with the Social Democrats, although that center-left party has said it will not do so, or she could try to form a minority government, which was seen as unlikely. Otherwise Germany will have to hold new elections.

“It is at least a day of deep reflection on how to go forward in Germany,” Merkel said. “But I will do everything possible to ensure that this country will be well led through these difficult weeks.”

Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and sister Bavaria-only Christian Social Union, the pro-business Free Democrats and the left-leaning Greens had already blown past Merkel’s own deadline of Thursday to agree on a basis for opening formal negotiations on a coalition of all four parties, a configuration that has never been tried at a national level in Germany.

Key sticking points were the issues of migration and climate change.

Among other things the Greens were pushing for Germany to end its use of coal and combustion engines by 2030, though they had signaled they were open to some compromise.
Assuming that the SDP is true to its word when it says that it won't join the coalition, and the fact that no one wants to make a coalition with the 3rd place AfD is a group of fascist bigots, there are not a whole bunch of options for Merkel.

One option is to enter into negotiations with Die Linke (The Left) party as well as the Greens.

That would put them over the critical 50%.

Of course, the many of the policies of Die Linke are an anathema to Merkel and the CDU, and the fact that it is technically the successor party of the East German Communists from East Germany presents an optics problem.

Still, opening up a dialogue with Die Linke would also put a lot of pressure on the FDP to return to the table.

So, it's not going to happen, even though it might make sense, because it's simply inconceivable given the norms of German political orthodoxy.

Oh Snap

Ron Wyden is calling for ads to be blocked from all government systems, because of their role in serving up malware:
A US Senator trying to eradicate the Internet scourge known as malvertising is proposing that all federal agencies block ads delivered to worker computers unless advertisers can ensure their networks are free of content that contains malicious code.

In a letter sent today, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden asked White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Rob Joyce to begin discussions with advertising industry officials to ensure ads displayed on websites can't be used to infect US government computers. If, after 180 days, Joyce isn't "completely confident" the industry has curbed the problem, Wyden asked that Joyce direct the US Department of Homeland Security to issue a directive "requiring federal agencies to block the delivery to employees' computers of all Internet ads containing executable code."

"Malware is increasingly delivered through code embedded in seemingly innocuous advertisements online," Wyden wrote. "Individuals do not even need to click on ads to get infected: this malicious software, including ransomware, is delivered without any interaction by the user."
You have to figure that there is a LOT of people who surf the web during their lunch hour, and if ads are blocked, internet firms will take a major hit.

18 November 2017

People Are Beginning to Come to My Point of View

For some time now, I have said that offensive cyber operations are a bad idea, because in order to hack someone, you are sending them a copy of your payload, and they can then use it themselves.

Ryan Cooper has come to this position as well:
Since August 2016, the National Security Agency has suffered a continual stream of devastating failures. Their internal hacking group, known as Tailored Access Operations (TAO), was breached 15 months ago by hackers calling themselves the "Shadow Brokers," which has been dribbling out the contents of the NSA's most prized hacking tools. The result has been a wave of internet crime — ransomware, lost files, and network attacks that disrupted businesses and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

And as this New York Times story illustrates, the agency has been completely incapable of figuring out how the breach happened. Their computer networks could have been penetrated, or they could have someone on the inside leaking the tools. But after more than a year, they have not been able to plug the leak. It's long past time the NSA was forced to stop hacking, and to start protecting the American people from the sort of tools they create.

At the time of the leak last year, I speculated that the NSA was exposing the American people to online attack, but I was not prepared for how bad it would be. Several huge ransomware attacks (in which a computer is infiltrated, its hard drive encrypted, and the de-encrypt key held for a bitcoin ransom) using NSA hacking tools have swept the globe, hitting companies like FedEx, Merck, and Mondelez International, as well as hospitals and telecoms in 99 countries.
Cyber weapons are different, because they are implicitly revealed, and available for manufacture and deployment, by the target once they are years.

Would it make sense to send drones after ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/Whatever if in so doing, they would be able to deploy drones against targets in the US?

This is how cyber works.

Requiem for a Hero

He was 84:
One day in May 1971, John C. Raines, a religion professor at Temple University, had just returned to his home in Germantown, Pa., from playing tennis when two F.B.I. agents knocked on the door.

For weeks, hundreds of agents had been combing Philadelphia for the amateur burglars who had embarrassed the F.B.I. by raiding a suburban field office and stealing a thousand files, and then baffled the bureau by evading capture.

The documents were delivered anonymously to journalists and congressmen as proof that the bureau had systematically and illegally infiltrated, intimidated and disrupted protest groups.


The burglary, and subsequent lawsuits by NBC and others, prompted a groundbreaking investigation in 1975 by the so-called Church committee, a special Senate panel led by Senator Frank Church of Idaho. The committee revealed details of the F.B.I.’s secret Cointelpro, or counterintelligence, operation, which included illegal sabotage of dissident groups deemed to be subversive.

Dr. Raines died on Sunday in Philadelphia at 84. His wife said the cause was congestive heart failure.


Among the files was an F.B.I. order to interview dissidents aggressively. The bureau’s goal, the order said, was to “enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles” and “to get the point across there is an F.B.I. agent behind every mailbox.”

What that proved, Dr. Raines said, was that J. Edgar Hoover, the F.B.I. director, “was not simply into surveillance; Hoover was into taking the voice of dissent away from dissent.”

The cache also included a routine routing slip with the word “Cointelpro.” The burglars overlooked the document, but the Church Committee later exposed the program in detail.
This man was a hero, like Ellsburg and Snowden.


Have some Space pr0n:

17 November 2017

More of This

In Pittsburgh, the Democratic Socialist Alliance (DSA) just defeated two incumbents, one a Republican city councilman and the other a longtime Democratic machine politician judge, and in so doing flipped the city council from Republican to Democratic:
The party inside of the MixTape bar in the historically lefty neighborhood of Garfield was absolutely jubilant. Hipster dance music blared over speakers as young hipster members of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) embraced long-time neighborhood activists, who had been involved in organizing in the community for decades.


[Pittsburgh DSA Co-Chair Adam] Shuck and his comrades had reasons to be ecstatic. In their first major electoral test, the 385 dues-paying members strong Pittsburgh DSA proved that they weren’t just a group of hipsters, but a serious political force that could shake up stagnant Pittsburgh political machine.

Not only did a DSA member flip a county council seat back to Democrats, but the DSA toppled District Justice Ron Costa, one of the longtime bosses of the Costa political family. In addition to these wins, reform oriented candidates in the industrial, inner-city suburbs also defeated long-time incumbents in key races.

The campaigns were noted for their innovativeness and creativity in a Pittsburgh political scene long ossified by political legacy candidates.

Running under the slogan of “I don’t sell out, I sell auto parts”, 54-year-old DSA member Anita Prizio, filmed TV ads promising “Bad Puns, Good Policy”. Her campaign focused on the need for more transparency in local government, tackling the opioid crisis, and combatting lead poisoning affecting Pittsburgh area residents. Her quirky outsider campaign garnered the support of DSA and Our Revolution.

Despite running in some of the richest suburbs of Pittsburgh as well as some inner-city neighborhoods, Prizio was able to knock off incumbent Republican county councilman Ed Kress by a margin of 50.8% to 49.1%.

However, the most stunning victory was the defeat of 24-year incumbent District Justice Ron Costa by independent candidate Mike Pappas. A civil rights lawyer and former staffer to legendary progressive State Senator Jim Ferlo, the lifelong Pittsburgh resident Pappas ran under the slogan of “Addiction is not a crime”.

As a District Justice, Pappas pledged to reduce mass incarceration and implement principles of restorative justice. This radical platform garnered the attention of progressives nationally and earned him the first-ever endorsement issued in a judicial race by the Bernie Sanders backed group Our Revolution.

Pappas’s DSA endorsement prompted Judge Costa, an old-school machine Democrat, to send a letter to thousands of his constituents warning them that “You need to know that the DSA is a splinter group that has called for the elimination of prisons and police as well as drastic changes to our law”.

Despite the red-baiting and lacking a position on the ballot as a Democrat, Pappas trounced the 24-year incumbent Costa by an 11 point margin. Pappas mobilized over a hundred volunteers throughout the district and increased the voter turnout from 5,800 votes in the District Justice election in 2011 to 8,900 votes in 2017.
There is a saying that all politics is local, and many state and local elections are timed to avoid the Presidential campaign years (Maryland Legislature and Governor, for example) or to completely avoid federal elections (VA state house & governor, and the aforementioned Pittsburgh elections, for example).

It serves to tilt the playing field toward machine politicians, since they typically have the operatives on the ground to get the smaller numbers of voters to the polls required for victory.

The DSA, is acting, organizing, and running locally, and they are winning.

This is in stark contrast to a some other left wing political movements who seem to limit themselves to pious political posturing in the off years, and kamikaze Presidential campaigns every 4 years. **cough** Green Party **cough**

16 November 2017

Oh Snap!

At the Wall Street Journal CEO Council meeting. Trump economic advisor Gary Cohn asked who would be investing in new plant and equipment if the tax cuts passed.

Very few hands went up:
President Trump's top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, looked out from the stage at a sea of CEOs and top executives in the audience Tuesday for the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council meeting. As Cohn sat comfortably onstage, a Journal editor asked the crowd to raise their hands if their company plans to invest more if the tax reform bill passes.

Very few hands went up.

Cohn looked surprised. “Why aren't the other hands up?” he said.

He laughed a little to lighten the mood, but it didn't cause many more hands to rise. Maybe the CEOs were tired. Maybe they didn't hear the question. It was a casual poll, but the lukewarm response seemed in tension with much of the public enthusiasm among corporations for a tax overhaul.


Second, executives themselves have indicated they probably won't use extra profits to invest. A Bank of America-Merrill Lynch survey this summer asked over 300 executives at major U.S. corporations what they would do after a “tax holiday” that would allow them to bring back money held overseas at a low tax rate. The No. 1 response? Pay down debt. The second most popular response was stock buybacks, where companies purchase some of their own shares to drive up the price. The third was mergers. Actual investments in new factories and more research were low on the list of plans for how to spend extra money.
This sh%$ is not a surprise.  Basically, it's Econ 101.

Republican Family Values

Wes Goodman, a Republican state representative in Ohio who has made the protection of, "Natural Marriage," a center piece of his poltical personae, has resigned after being caught having an affair with another man.

To paraphrase James Carville, it's the hypicrisy, stupid:

A Christian “family values” Republican lawmaker has stepped down from his post in Ohio’s state House over revelations that he engaged in “inappropriate conduct” with another man at his legislative office, said The Columbus Dispatch on Thursday.

Wes Goodman, 33, a married former aide to U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), submitted a two-sentence resignation letter to the state Republican Party on Wednesday after a meeting with state House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R).

“I was alerted to details yesterday afternoon regarding his involvement in inappropriate behavior related to his state office,” said Rosenberger in a statement on Wednesday. “I met with him later in the day where he acknowledged and confirmed the allegations. It became clear that his resignation was the most appropriate course of action for him, his family, the constituents of the 87th House District and this institution.”

No charges of harassment or abuse were filed against Goodman. The details of the incident are not clear, but apparently a witness to the two men’s liaison reported Goodman to House Chief of Staff Mike Dittoe on Tuesday.

“Rumors about Goodman’s questionable conduct, including his use of social media, have been swirling at the Statehouse in the past few weeks and include stories dating back years to when he worked in Washington. His Facebook account was taken offline,” said the Dispatch.
Anyone surprised by this?  I'm not.

Say It Ain't So, Al

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) faced swift condemnation and bipartisan calls for an ethics investigation on Thursday after a Los Angeles radio broadcaster accused him of forcibly kissing and groping her in 2006.

Franken first issued a brief apology, saying his actions were intended to be funny and that he didn’t recall the incident the way Leeann Tweeden did. He later issued a longer apology: “There’s no excuse,” he said in a subsequent statement, adding that he would “gladly cooperate” with an ethics investigation.

That looks likely to happen. At least half a dozen Senate Democrats urged their chamber’s six-member, bipartisan ethics committee to investigate the allegations. Franken could face censureship or even expulsion from the Senate.
Copy editing note here, it's, "censure," not "censureship," you illiterate Saracen pig.

This sucks like 1000 Hoovers all going at once.

Tweet of the Day

This is such a wonderful thing.

H/t naked capitalism.

But of Course

There has been a major leak of the Keystone Pipeline:
About 5,000 barrels of oil, or about 210,000 gallons, gushed out of the Keystone Pipeline on Thursday in South Dakota, blackening a grassy field in the remote northeast part of the state and sending cleanup crews and emergency workers scrambling to the site.

“This is not a little spill from any perspective,” said Kim McIntosh, an environmental scientist with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources. No livestock or drinking water sources appeared to be threatened, Ms. McIntosh said, and no farm buildings or houses are within a mile.

The spill, near Amherst, S.D., comes just days before regulators in neighboring Nebraska decide whether to grant the final permit needed to begin construction on a different pipeline proposal, the Keystone XL, which would be operated by the same company. An announcement in Nebraska is expected on Monday.
This is not a surprise.  TransCanada's safety record sucks.


The bribery trial of New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez has ended in a hung jury.

He's corrupt as hell, but Supreme Court rulings since John Roberts has become Chief Justice have served to make it almost impossible for corruption to be successfully prosecuted.

The US's drunk walk to Zimbabwe continues.