She Said She Wouldn’t – But She Did!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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cartoon hacking government websites

I wrote a post on July 3rd posing the question “Are government bureaucrats capable of looking after data they collect about us?” (if you want to read it click here.)

The question was, of course, rhetorical, because we all know that the stupid bureaucrats the government employs aren’t capable of looking after anything.

The figure I quoted in that post, about the number of people whose data had been hacked, was 18 million which was a lot higher than the first government admission that 4.5 million records had been hacked. Now however the figure is well in excess of 21 million. It probably won’t stop there.

opm director Katherine Archuleta

The Office of Personnel Management was responsible for losing the confidential information and there have been calls from both Republicans and Democrats for the chief bureaucrat of the OPM, Ms Katherine Archuleta, to do the decent thing and resign.

But as we also know there is no decency in stupid bureaucrats, only self-delusion and arrogance. They are too dumb to do their jobs and too stupid to realize it.

Thus for as long as she could, Archuleta clung on in there, rejecting bipartisan calls for her to resign. She said she had no plans to step down. Worse than that she said she was “committed to continuing her work for the agency”.

I read that to mean more incompetence, more lies and more denial, and more trying to cling on to a position which she is clearly not fit to hold. For example she pig-headedly refused to shut down servers identified by the US Inspector General as unsafe.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the White House, headed by another incompetent, President Barack Obama, continued to express confidence in the leadership of Ms Archuleta.

However, as the size of the security gaff became greater and greater so did the pressure on chief bureaucrat Archuleta. As the numbers of missing records continued to climb almost daily, the result was inevitable.

Although Archuleta continued to say she had “no intention of resigning and would stay on to sort out the mess” – she handed in her resignation. The President – who supported her and who had complete confidence in her – accepted it immediately.

It was either that or be fired. Everyone knew it but her.

The announcement came along with further emerging details about the pathetic level of security within the OPM. Many of its servers are apparently so antiquated they can’t run encryption and modern security software. Two-factor authentication is almost unheard of and seldom used. In fact things are so bad that the agency isn’t even sure how many computer networks it has!!!

One incompetent bureaucrat down.

Hopefully many more to follow.

opm data loss

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Sacre Bleu! – Er, Make That Red White And Bleu!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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sacre bleu cartoon

There has been a lot of activity in France lately concerning the United States government spying on three French Presidents.

The current President of France even called an emergency meeting of the Conseil de la Défense, the country’s highest national security forum to discuss the emergence of documents that appear to implicate the US National Security Agency (NSA) – now who’da guessed that? –  spying on Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, who ruled France from 1995 to 2012.

The documents further indicate that the NSA may have also targeted the personal communications of Francois Hollande, France’s current head of state.

The files were published by WikiLeaks, which described them as “top secret intelligence reports and technical documents”, detailing NSA spying operations against the French presidency, as well as espionage directed at several French government ministers and at France’s ambassador to the US.

French President Francois Hollande at meeting to discuss Wikileaks revelations

The documents include intelligence briefs, which detail the thoughts and diplomatic maneuvers by French presidents and other senior officials, on subjects such as the Greek economic crisis, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and the United Nations.

This is further evidence of more disgraceful and arrogant behavior by US spy agencies.

The thing is, however, no one is surprised any more.

Since Edward Snowden’s revelations the world has come to expect illegal and bad behavior from Americans. It is as simple as that. And for the reputations of Americans it is as bad as that. Which is a great pity because these activities do not represent in any way the vast majority of the American people.

So, if they aren’t a surprise to anyone, will the latest revelations cause trouble between America and France? I think the undoubted answer is “Oui”, but only a “petit oui”.

As befits normal protocol in these kinds of things, the American ambassador to France was summoned for what was called ‘an official protest’, but little or nothing more happened apart from President Obama getting on the phone with the French President, groveling and apologizing and assuring him in no uncertain terms “that the US is no longer spying on France”.

No, I don’t believe him either, but there it is.

President Obama on phone

There was no need for America’s snooping. As with Germany, French and American intelligence agencies cooperate with each other regularly. They jointly monitor international issues of mutual concern, such as what is happening in Syria, Iraq, the Ukraine, Libya, and even the financial catastrophe that is Greece.

For now that will continue, but the road ahead looks bumpy.

Wikileaks has already made good on its promise that its “French readers can expect more timely and important revelations in the near future”.

The latest release from the whistleblower website contains more documents that indicate that the National Security Agency (NSA), under orders from Washington, were tasked with collecting secret information not only about the economic policies of the French government and the country’s financial sector, but on export contracts by French companies.

In fact every French-registered company involved in negotiations for international projects or other sales contracts valued at over $200 million, like car makers Peugeot and Renault and financial institutions like BNP Paribas and the agricultural credit union, were also subjected to US government secret snooping.

Washington’s pathetic statements that none of this information is ever used to benefit American companies competing for international contracts rings mighty hollow with the French, and the rest of the world come to that.

This latest information is a lot more damning and may necessitate a much stronger response from the French – even if it is just to save face.

Like their attitude over the invasion of Iraq, I think any further reaction would include little or no cooperation in any future American interventions in the Middle East and maybe the use of a veto or two in the United Nations.

We might be at the start of a new meaning to the term “non” cooperation?

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non merci button

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At Last A Little Good News About The Banksters.

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Bank Logos-2

Don’t get too excited, it is only a little, but it is good news.

In a recent ruling by British regulators, the top executives and managers at banks operating there (which is practically all the major banks) could have their bonuses clawed back for up to ten years after any finding of misconduct. It will also prohibit bonuses for nonexecutive directors and for the managers of companies that are receiving financial support from the government.

The move, which is long, long overdue and still does not go far enough, extends a seven-year clawback period that one regulator, the Prudential Regulation Authority, (part of the Bank of England), introduced for so-called variable pay (read ‘bonuses’) last year as part of tougher accountability rules.

Prudential Regulation Authority

The new rules announced by the authority, which is part of the Bank of England, and by another regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, are the latest effort by financial regulators in Europe to hold the banksters accountable for improper actions that could play a role in precipitating future financial upheavals.

The regulators say they are trying to “embed an accountable culture” in the City of London, which actually means that the authorities realize that the banksters have learned nothing from their previous catastrophic frauds and thefts. They know when the chance arrives these greedy and immoral people will try to do it all again.

bankster caricature

The new British rules, which apply to banks, building societies and investment firms regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority, including British units of United States banks and other financial firms based outside Europe, mean that senior managers, risk managers and others at banks will also be asked to defer more of their variable pay for a longer period, making it easier for regulators and financial institutions to recover bonuses if misconduct is uncovered.

Other countries in Europe are also enacting new regulations for their banksters. Dutch lawmakers, for example, capped bonuses this year for employees in the banking, insurance and other finance sectors that limits variable pay to 20 percent of their fixed salaries. The Dutch have also banned bonuses for executives at bailed-out banks.

European rules already limit bankers’ bonuses to the equivalent of their annual salaries, or to two times their base salaries if the company’s shareholders approve it. But they know they are so greedy that they will try to find ways round that.

breaking the rules

Already some banks are making moves to get round the limits by introducing role-based remuneration and other payments, so the regulators have their work cut out for them keeping a step ahead of the thieves.

What they really need to do is confiscate ALL their ill-gotten gains, impose severe additional financial penalties AND throw these criminals in jail – for a long time.

America, which always likes to consider itself as the leader of the world, should lead in this regard too. It would be better than starting another war in some far off God forsaken country.

Unfortunately I think it will be an equally long time, and a lot more frauds, before they get to that much needed stage.

And you can take that to the bank!

Give a man a bank

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I Said He Would Be Entertaining.

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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donaldtrump

Say what you like about him, but he is entertaining. Trump is already making what was looking like one of the dullest election campaigns in history into something worth looking at – just now and again though.

The latest nonsense comes from the business world, namely Macy’s, NBC and Univision.

Macy’s has decided to drop Trump-related merchandise, and the other two are going to break off ties (pun, tee-hee!) with the Donald.

The Macy’s decision is fairly clear, they’d rather run away from controversy and lose money than ride out the storm. I wonder do they sell goods manufactured in the sweat shops of the world, often by children? Maybe we should look in their hypocrisy department – fourth floor next to the white flags if I remember correctly?

waving white surrender flag

However, no one knows exactly what the NBC and Univision decision means in practical terms. For example, will they sell their half of the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants and if they do who will they sell it to? Or will they buy Trump’s half which will mean giving him top dollar for the shows because I don’t think he will let them away softly. In fact he would be within his rights to sue NBC for breach of contract relating to the pageants if this dodgy decision leads to a cancellation.

Either way it will be more wealth for Trump, which is probably what the move was designed NOT to do when they were thinking about it. That’s assuming they did think about it, which appears increasing unlikely.

trump two fingers

Neither has NBC given great thought as to who is going to host “The Apprentice” in a post-Trump era. They’ve hinted that they are going to look for a new star to replace Trump on the long-running reality show, but he’ll be a hard act to follow. Maybe it’s a chance for another dose of the limelight for the Shark Tank’s Mr Wonderful or even Mark Cuban, both of whom seem to thrive on the small screen and both of whom seem to have egos on the grand scale.

This hasty decision also leaves a BIG question mark about the partiality of these TV companies during the election race. Will they – or perhaps better, can they – continue to cover Trump fairly as a presidential candidate?

Former President Bush, President Bush and Governor Bush depart the christening ceremony of the USS George H.W. Bush in Virginia

Then there’s former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, part of the Bush, Bush and Bush super wealthy and well connected dynasty who want the big seat in the White House again. Jeb has said his decision to run for the Republican nomination will be based on two things: his family and whether he can lift America’s spirit.

After the great job his father and big brother did as President in lifting America’s spirits (a little sarcasm there) how could the voters do anything other than make him the GOP Presidential candidate? Oh dear me!

Despite the family history, Bush seems to be making good progress so far. But he had an easy start, because prior to the arrival of Trump on the scene he had no high profile rival. He still holds a significant lead over the second-place Trump.

Some think Jeb Bush would be the best candidate to handle illegal immigration and social issues. Just like his brother perhaps, see video.

On the economy Trump would probably be favorite, especially after the way Dubya Bush let spending go out of control during the latter stages of his war-mongering Presidency.

Apart from these two, although there are numerous others in the field,there does not seem to be any other close runners. Not yet anyway. But things in election races can always change suddenly as a skeleton or two tumble from their closets.

Trump is trying to capitalize on his business background. There is no doubt that that gives him an advantage over the career politicians. In business Trump lives or dies by his decisions. As for the Senators and Governor would-be’s, they are used to other people paying for their mistakes not them personally. It’s a significant difference in the mindsets of the two types of contender.

There is no doubt that Trump is correct when he says that the “American public is ready for a leader with a proven track record of success.” This is particular so after eight years of a dithering Obama administration.

Whether or not “Eighty percent of Central American girls and women are raped crossing into the United States,” one would have thought that America was ready for someone who wasn’t afraid to tell it how it is, instead of trying to pander to every minority viewpoint be it legitimate or crazy.

In politics a bit of controversy is always…

what’s the word….

“Entertaining?” That’s it.

trump with hand mic

As if to emphasize the fact, contrast what is going on in the Republican camp with the Democrats.

Hillary Clinton launched her presidential bid via a lackluster video message on social media way back in April and she continues to be the overwhelming front-runner among Democratic hopefuls for the White House job.

In fact the Democrat competition has turned into an amalgamation of Dullsville & Boringtown. There’s only one horse (make that horse’s ass) in the running. What she needs to blow all that cash for I don’t know. Build a hospital ward for the poor you dummy, you’re already selected.

hillary rodham clinton presidential bid 2016

Vice President Joe Biden, who has twice before made unsuccessful bids for the Oval Office – in 1988 and 2008 – might make another one, unsuccessful one that is. Recently he has said he thinks he’d “make a good President.” He is perhaps basing that on comments in the press that he is known for his foreign policy and national security expertise. He shouldn’t, because during the past eight years he has shown absolutely no grasp of either foreign affairs or national security.

Of course, it may well be that come the actual Presidential election next year, it will be Jeb versus Hillary and dull as they are the Democrats may win again. In a democracy the voters sometimes get it wrong.

In the meantime I’m still finding the Donald’s entry into the fray, what’s that word again….

“Entertaining!”

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The Greeks Can’t Afford To Bear Gifts These Days

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Greek financial crisis

I used to love listening to George W Bush when he talked about the ‘Grecians’. He was an idiot, but unlike some holders of his post I think he secretly knew it.

But, enough of that, let’s concentrate on the Grecians.

Their financial crisis is deepening and they’ve shut down all their banks. They’ve also imposed what are called ‘capital controls’, in other words what you can and cannot do with your own money –  assuming you could get to it in the first place.

Several Western countries, including the US and Britain, have issued travel warnings for Greece. Not a warning about the place being very dangerous, just a warning to have enough cash to be able to pay for things now that the banks are shut and presumably their ATMs as well.

queue at Greek ATM

This recent activity by the Greek government is because of the breakdown of talks between Athens and the European Union concerning the Grecians’ enormous debt that they clearly can’t afford to pay back. EU finance ministers rejected Athens’ request to prolong a financial assistance program.

It is also about a bit of timely government blackmail.

The Greek government has so far been unable to formulate any meaningful plans to curtail their spending significantly. The Greek people likewise have become used to living beyond their means and are reluctant to tighten their belts. The people are blaming the government and the government is blaming the people and nothing is really getting resolved.

So Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, shut the banks and said they would stay shut until July 6, conveniently the day after a nationwide referendum on whether to accept the bailout terms proposed to Greece by its creditors.

Some commentators also think that the banks may have been shut because they don’t have enough cash left. The Greek people think the same and are panicking to get their money out of the banks. Runs on banks inevitably lead to disaster.

As Greece is part of the Euro zone it does not have control of its own monetary system. In other words, unlike America which can simply print more money if and when it needs it, the Grecians have to rely on the European Central Bank giving them cash. and it has refused to give them any more Euros.

That decision could prompt Greece to default which would probably lead to it being kicked out of the Euro zone and possibly out of the EU itself, which would be an historic first and something that would be done very reluctantly.

Greek financial crisis cartoon

The rulers of the EU are in what is known as a ‘tight spot’. If they don’t take a tough line on the Grecians they can be sure other poor countries in the EU will follow suit. If they do take a tough line, then the upheaval will undoubted have an impact on the Euro currency.

A Greek default would also be another kick in the greedy teeth of the big financial institutions who own a good part of the massive €300 billion debt – you see there are positives in every situation if you look hard enough.

So it looks like emergency meetings and frantic discussions all over the place in Europe.

Despite the fact that Dubya is long gone from the political scene, I don’t think we’ve heard the last about the Grecians just yet.

By the way, Happy Independence Day to all my American visitors, bet you’re glad you’re not part of Europe these days.

Happy 4th July USA

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Are Government Bureaucrats Capable Of Looking After Data They Collect About Us?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Office of Personnel Management

If you’ve read any of the political posts on this blog you’ll already know the answer to the question posed in the title.

Staffed by stupid bureaucrats, the government isn’t capable of doing anything right, apart from trying to make all our lives miserable with needless and intrusive rules and regulations.

Proving the point, recently in the press there have been numerous stories about the personal data of an estimated 18 million current, former and prospective federal employees being the victim of what they call a ‘cyber breach’ at the Office of Personnel Management.

I say 18 million because that is what has currently been estimated by none other than FBI Director James Comey in a closed-door briefing to Senators recently. A far cry from the government’s lies that ‘only’ 4.2 million files were hacked. And that 18 million number is expected to grow, not get smaller – which I suppose makes the government’s lie even bigger.

The same hackers who accessed the Office of Personnel Management’s data are believed to have last year breached an OPM contractor, KeyPoint Government Solutions. When that OPM breach was discovered in April, investigators found that KeyPoint security credentials were used to breach the OPM system.

KeyPoint_Logo

Some investigators believe that after that intrusion last year, OPM bureaucrats should have blocked all access from KeyPoint, and that doing so could have prevented more serious damage.

But the bureaucrats refused to do anything – probably waiting for a sub-committee to write a 2,000 page report first!

It is believed that the Chinese government is behind this latest ‘cyber breach’, which is considered the worst ever against the U.S. government – so far, that is. The Chinese hackers are believed to have built their own backdoor access to the OPM system, armed with high-level system administrator access codes.

Naturally since it happened under his watch and the buck stops with him, President Obama has ordered his administration to answer all accusations of incompetence by minimizing the severity of breach.

But the OPM’s internal auditors told a House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee last week that key databases housing sensitive national security data, including applications for background checks, had not met federal security standards.

Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass

Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., responded thus, “I wish that you [the OPM] were as strenuous and hardworking at keeping information out of the hands of hackers as are at keeping information out of the hands of Congress.”

If only!

So are the government bureaucrats capable of looking after the data they collect on us?

Of course they aren’t.

Looks as if all Snowden, the subject of Wednesday’s post (if you want to read it click here), is really guilty of, is doing the bureaucrat’s job more efficiently.

whistleblower techie

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Traitor Or Patriot?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Snowden Traitor or Patriot

A lot has been written about Edward Snowden, the NSA employee who leaked files of secret documents to the public. Some of the reaction has been in praise of him as a patriot and some of it castigating him as an enemy of the people and a traitor.

So who is right?

I guess that depends on your point of view.

If you think the government did the right thing snooping illegally on its own people and on its allies, then you are probably in the camp that wants to see Snowden shot as a traitor.

If you think Snowden did the right thing to expose the deceit and crimes of government agencies so that the general public became better informed about what was being undertaken in its name, then you are probably in the camp that wants Snowden left alone.

There is no ambiguity in which camp the government resides. It wants to see Snowden repatriated to the US to face numerous charges that would result in him – perhaps not being shot – but certainly spending a long, long time in prison. It’s not about punishing Snowden, it’s about sending a message to other like-minded government employees.

To back up their claim to have Snowden punished, the press is continually being leaked stories of how Snowden put lives at risk because of his revelations.

Sunday Times Snowden smear

For example, take the latest claims leaked to a British newspaper is that Russian and Chinese intelligence analysts have decrypted some of his Snowden’s stolen files and have been able to identify US and British secret agents as a result. Apparently personnel has had to be withdrawn from overseas operations in hostile countries because their identities have been “blown”. It’s an unlikely scenario because the vast majority of ‘spies’ hold diplomatic posts in embassies and as such have the benefit of diplomatic immunity if exposed.

And there have also been counter claims denouncing stories like these as ‘smear tactics’ used by the government without any evidence to support them. The counter claimers also point to the fact that the latest newspaper to carry the government’s leaked story is Rupert Murdock’s ‘Sunday Times’, the very same source that carried the government’s leaked dossier on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, every single “fact” in which proved to be a lie.

Cynics also point out that this latest anti-Snowden non-story in the British press has been timed precisely to coincide with the British government’s new Snooper’s Charter act, which enables the security services to access all internet activity. Convenient to say the least!

As for Snowden himself, he says that when fled the US he took four copies of a cache of top secret documents lifted from the NSA’s intranet but handed these over to carefully selected journalists and no longer has them in his possession.

Naturally NSA sources dispute this, arguing that when Snowden defected to Russia he took the files with him.

Once again who you believe depends on which camp you are in.

It is possible that Snowden is lying, but it is also possible that he is telling the truth.

If it is the latter it is a reasonable assumption that any leaks of his documents after he left Hong Kong have been the result of the files being hacked or stolen from the journalists he passed them on to.

When you think about it, journalists are not intelligence or computer experts and probably were an easy mark for the hackers. Even the more security conscious ones invariably use encryption programs such as PGP, TruCrypt and Tor, which are all vulnerable to the kind of hacking available to the US and other governments.

For what it’s worth, my money is on the government’s latest leak being more bullshit. When you’ve clearly done something wrong, and want to keep on doing it, it’s always cool to be able to distract the crowd by blaming someone else.

So it’s not my fault.

it's not my fault

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