Forget The Cold War, The Summer Is Here

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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2nd cold war

The world breathed a great sigh of relief when the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, but somehow we’re in the middle of another cold war that nobody wants or needs.

How did that happen?

As most things do, it all started with a huge mistake. That mistake was the West, particularly America, treating Russia like a defeated country after 1991, instead of the formidable nation that it still was despite the breakup of the USSR. Mikhail Gorbachev has acknowledged that fact.

Unfortunately Americans have no clue about foreign affairs and never have had. That, plus a ton of arrogance, led us to the Ukraine which America thought it could more or less capture as an ally to be slotted into NATO. They wanted a fully armed NATO nuclear arsenal on the Russian’s doorstep.

The Americans quite rightly didn’t like it when the Russians tried to do it to them in Cuba way back in the early 1960s, so what idiot thought that the Russians would like it when they did it to them?

Zbigniew Brzezinski

Whoever formulated the plan, it was heavily influenced by Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US National Security Advisor during President Carter’s administration. His theory was that the only way to prevent Russia becoming a great power again was to remove the Ukraine from its sphere of influence.

Thus America initiated an eastward expansion of NATO, using the EU to present the Ukraine with a choice between Russia and Europe. Some Ukrainians, like those in the Crimea favored Russia and others in other parts wanted closer ties with the EU.

Like many other countries, the prospect of joining the EU is attractive to a significant proportion of Ukrainians. But the way America tried to bring it about was just a step too far. The Ukrainian President, who had been duly elected, was removed in what would have been called a “coup d’etat” had it happened elsewhere, or had Russia been the culprit.

That is why a lot of the tensions between the West and Russia is centered on the internal troubles within the Ukraine.

If one looks into the history of the Ukraine another significant part of the puzzle presents itself.

ukraine-map

In much the same way as stupid English bureaucrats redrew borders in the Middle East without any consideration for the people who lived there, (for example, the Kurds), which resulted in wars and upheaval ever since, when the Soviet Union broke apart somewhere in the region of 25 million Russians were left outside the borders of Russia. A lot of them were in the Crimea in the Ukraine.

But the Ukraine had only been independent for three years in its history (1917-20), after the collapse of the tsarist armies.

The post-December 1991 Ukraine was thus a composite entity, its western regions had belonged to Poland between WWI and WWII; its eastern regions were Orthodox and Russian-speaking; and its Black Sea coast had been Ottoman.

The Crimea had never been Ukrainian until Nikita Khrushchev decreed it should be in 1954.

Thus, for anyone with any degree of understanding of foreign affairs, the troubles now being suffered by the various peoples in the Ukraine were both predictable and avoidable.

But the stupid bureaucrats in power were not able to predict it and thus the mess became inevitable.

Ukraine crisis

Sadly the situation has now deteriorated into what amounts to a civil war in the Ukraine. On one side there is the Ukrainian army plus “volunteer battalions”, supported by the US and its allies, and on the other the “separatist” militias who draw their support mainly from Russian-speakers in the east, and who are supported by Russia.

Outside of what is happening in the Ukraine itself, the US and EU implemented severe sanctions against Russia which have hurt, but not nearly as much as they were supposed to. In turn Russia announced counter-sanctions on food and looked to emerging markets, particularly China, to diversify its foreign trade and industrial cooperation.

And so the Cold War part two has begun and shows little sign of ending just yet.

In fact it looks like the Ukraine will remain in a mess until it gets its act together and decides whether it wants to remain on friendly economic terms with its huge neighbor Russia, or whether it will settle for becoming subservient to the whims of the US, via some kind of economic agreement with the EU.

It has a third option, though, perhaps its best option, and that is not taking sides, but rather remaining on friendly terms with both East and West.

However, they may never get the chance to choose option three. In plain language, I don’t think that the people who arrange assassinations and coup d’etats will let them do that.

Meantime, summer or not, the chill continues.

snow in summer sun

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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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Whatever Happened To Right And Wrong?

 “Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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A bit of politics today.

The Iran deal – if there in fact is one, nobody seems certain – is causing a lot of angst within the Republican Party. Maybe they know the reason for their concern, but somehow I doubt it.

Don’t worry I’m not going to go into a big analysis of the deal, not yet anyway. As I said, no one is sure that anything has really been agreed.

iran nuke deal cartoon

But the details of the deal aside, what this and many other happenings over the past few years has clearly highlighted is that political parties – and not only in America – have become obsessed with the “if he’s fer it, I’m agin it” mentality.

The facts don’t count.

The reasons don’t matter.

The benefits are never logically weighed up.

Nor are the faults.

It is always just a knee-jerk reaction with no analysis whatsoever. You could write the headlines even before the event it is all so depressingly predictable.

And these pompous parties and politicians have the gall to call it ‘democracy’ and to try to foist it on other parts of the world that don’t want it and haven’t asked for it.

reaction to iran nuke deal cartoon

Somehow we have deteriorated to the point where a country full of politicians who don’t know what’s best for their own people, now think they know what is best for everyone else. Self-delusion, arrogance, call it what you like, there are many words that could be applied to describe it, none of them very complimentary.

An example is Republican Senator Tom Cotton, who has clearly learned nothing from what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, because he now boasts that a U.S. military campaign against Iran’s nuclear facilities would only take “several days” of bombing.

Apparently in his head there would be no consequences. The Iranians will just sit back and take their medicine then wise up and never do it again.

On the other hand, of course, if Obama was against a deal with Iran I bet you Sen Cotton would be all for it.

That’s the real depth of his analysis, and there are (too) many others like him.

Whatever happened to right and wrong?

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Sorry Elvis, You May As Well Come Back Home!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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We all know politicians and their bureaucratic lap dogs are stupid. We also know that they fanny around trying to find ways to steal more of our money and then waste it on laws and other interference we neither want nor need.

But sometimes their efforts are just staggeringly unnecessary and stupid.

Did you know, for example, that the morons in the US Congress wasted time, money, energy, not to mention paper and ink, discussing and clarifying that any income earned by U.S. residents while in space would be subject to U.S. taxes!

residents while in space would be subject to U.S. taxes

During the Apollo missions we already witnessed the nonsensical spectacle of national heroes like Neil Armstrong having to be processed through US Customs and Immigration when they returned from the Moon. Talk about bureaucratic jobsworth claptrap!

Now the idiots in Congress have declared that colonists on Mars, of whom there are currently, and for the foreseeable future, none, zero and nil, will be taxed on the income they earn while en route to, and living on, the Red Planet. I suppose to continue the madness, the US authorities will try to make the Martians themselves  –  if we find any  –  subject to US taxes too!

It’s enough to make you get your antennae in a tangle!

It’s all because the US government is broke and because it wants to have total control over its citizens (not the uber rich ones, of course, they can do whatever they want). Unlike most countries, the United States uses a ‘worldwide’ system of taxation, under which it taxes all income earned by U.S. citizens and residents, regardless of where it is earned.

The arrogance of a ‘worldwide’ catchment is apparently not enough, now America thinks it must have a ‘pan-galactic’ tax system.

tax burden

At seven times the size of the humongous novel ‘War and Peace’, and at around four million words and counting, the US Tax Code is already monstrously over-sized, but with the whole Universe to cater for it’s only going to get bigger and more complicated. For example, I foresee vast sections trying to explain how to cater for an Earth year of 365 days being factored into a Martian year of 687 days.

Make that getting your antennae in a knot rather than just a tangle.

But no doubt the bureaucrats back on Earth are already salivating at the prospect of drafting even more crap.

As for those with Martian ambitions?

Sorry Elvis, you might as well come back home. We miss you!

Elvis on Mars

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I Spy With Your Little ‘i’ – A Free And Open Internet?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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internet surveillance

When the internet was born it was a tool of the military establishment.

Then it broke out of that stranglehold and escaped into a world of freedom of expression and communication for everyone.

Never before had a system like this been available to the general public. Never before had it been so easy to find information, search for friends, communicate with groups with similar interests, etc. Its popularity was assured.

The world wide web developed at break neck speed, much too quick for the people who hate and detest freedom. They were confounded.

It was a free and open internet.

world wide web

So how could it ever go wrong?

Well, as with the financial crisis, when you dig down a bit you find the Clinton administration again as the culprit.

During the 1990s, when the World Wide Web was first being woven into social and cultural life, internet companies and corporate advertisers lobbied the Clinton administration to minimize privacy restrictions, so that they could re-engineer the Web to enable commercial surveillance of internet users.

The warnings of public interest groups were ignored as social networks, search engines, service providers and advertisers lobbied hard against even the smallest of efforts at data protection. Motivated by greed, they ensured that commercial surveillance would be pervasively integrated online. They are still at it today, that’s really what cloud computing services are all about.

A few thousand giant corporations, like Google, have become able to capture information every minute, of every hour, of every day, from everyone who uses the internet. And they can’t stop because their profit strategies totally rely on accumulating user data.

google for profit surveillance

Thus began the surveillance society. The government saw how easy this could now be done and began to catch up fast. If there was snooping to be done, they were not to be left out in the cold.

Until Edward Snowden, who had been a computer consultant working for a subcontractor to the US National Security Agency (NSA), copied several hundred thousand classified documents relating to surveillance programs being conducted by the US and its allies in the name of the war on terror, and sent them to journalists, nobody really understood the level of snooping that was going on.

Most of it was unnecessary, intrusive, unproductive and immoral, and after Snowden’s revelations nobody believed the United States government was totally innocent of any wrongdoing.

ennesssseh

Further revelations published since have helped to reveal a surveillance system that intrudes into almost every facet of our private lives. Privacy in fact is a thing of the past, unless you have the time, resources and knowledge to try to circumvent it.

If the government was only spying on the communications of foreign countries such as China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, and if it was confined to what could be termed ‘unfriendly’ nations and their agents throughout the world, then I don’t think anyone would mind so much. It’s a necessary evil in today’s world.

But unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. Friendly nations and heads of state, European institutions, the UN headquarters, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to name but a few, have all also come under the snooper’s gaze.

This has not only shown up the irresponsibility and arrogance of those in charge of the snoopers, and their lack of common sense and ethics, but it has also created even more ill will against the United States.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an ally of the United States, was a victim of the snoopers. As a result of that revelation, the German government protested publicly its outrage. It also terminated its longstanding telecommunications service contract with Verizon, directing its business to Deutsche Telekom instead. Two weeks after that it expelled the head of US intelligence in Germany.

The President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, also took public stands against US privacy invasions. He, like Merkel, had also personally been a victim of the US snoopers.

Then the UN General Assembly voted unanimously to affirm online privacy as a human right, and in June 2014, responding to the EU, the US Justice Department had to promise to send legislation to Congress that would grant European citizens many of the (inadequate) privacy protections accorded to US citizens.

Bad enough not trusting your supposed ‘allies’, but US intelligence agencies have gone even further. Now they don’t even trust the decent, honest, hard-working citizens of America who have never broken any laws, nor have any intention of doing so.

prism

The Prism program, for example, allows the NSA to collect data from your emails, telephone conversations, contacts, videos, etc., from major US digital companies including Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

The XKeyscore program uses several hundred servers distributed across the world to store information on the activities of every Internet user, including your emails, internet searches, the websites you visit, what you post on social networks, and blogs like this. (Whoops!)

The list goes on and on.

After Snowden’s revelations, commercial firms like Google, Facebook and others scrambled to distance themselves by professing outrage. Their protestations had little to do with political principle but a lot to do with ensuring they continued to make fortunes by collecting data on us.

The US Internet companies went on a public relations offensive, and also raced to reorganize their overseas operations, to reassure worried foreign customers that they were complying with local data protection measures.

IBM, for example, committed over a billion dollars to building additional data centers overseas, hoping to ease customer fears that their data was not safe from the US government’s surveillance. But then the US authorities demanded that Microsoft, which deploys more than a million computers in over 40 countries, hand over emails stored on its servers in Ireland. Data is not safe and private anywhere it seems.

Last week I wrote a post about the Facebook/US Army experiment in trying (successfully) influence how people thought. (Click here if you want to read it.)

And so it continues.

Personally I think it is a pity that the powers that be are able to devote time, energy and money against people who have done nothing wrong, yet seem unwilling to remove child pornography and other evils from the world wide web. But the latter would require a decree of decency and morals that is sadly lacking in those who direct such matters for the government.

The US has lost the moral authority to talk about a free and open Internet, because that free and open internet has already been destroyed.

No doubt there is worse to come.

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Doing The Right Thing.

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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The Sunday Sermon

Barrack Obama during his first Presidential election campaign
Barrack Obama during his first Presidential election campaign

Seven years ago a young fellow called Barrack Obama was running for President. One of the cornerstones of his campaign was a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, which he called “a dumb war”.

In that much he was right. It was a dumb war, instigated by the dumb American and British politicians who preceded him and who had the deceit and arrogance to lie to their electorates in order to manufacture an excuse to invade that country.

It was always destined to be a disaster. Once Saddam had been eliminated there was no strong leader to hold Iraq together. He may have been a monster, no one is arguing he wasn’t, but without him, or someone like him, things have far from improved. That is just the harsh reality, like it or not.

Seven years ago Obama had no moral objection to the fact that a withdrawal of the occupying forces in Iraq might leave the way open to civil war and genocide. In fact to quote him from that period he said, “[If] that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven’t done.”

He could have said the same about many other countries in the world where civil strife raged.

So today the speeches laden with moral indignation, telling the world that he has ordered military action in Iraq “to prevent a potential act of genocide,” ring mightily hollow.

It would be much better if Obama came clean.

I know it’s a bit of a reach for a politician to start telling the truth, but it would help.

Obama needs to tell the world that he will clean up the mess he and his predecessors made. He needs to admit that the “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” that he said he had left behind, when U.S. troops pulled out, was a dream that has deteriorated into a nightmare. And he needs to remove the advisors who prompted him to compare ISIS to a junior varsity basketball team when he was interviewed on the subject in January this year. That was just another thing they got completely and tragically wrong.

Yes, I’m asking for a bit of honesty and humility, that’s all.

What I’m hearing instead, however, is more claptrap and confusion.

Vice President Joe Biden is telling everyone that the U.S. “will follow ISIS to the gates of hell”, while other senior Obama Administration officials are assuring us that America is, “not launching a sustained US campaign against ISIS…”

journalist-james-foley-isis-beheading
Journalist James Foley minutes before he was beheaded by ISIS terrorists

Conflicting statements like those, in the face of the continuing barbaric beheadings of men, women and even children, and other heinous crimes committed by these despicable and godless terrorists, will hardly strike fear into them. Perhaps the strategy is to have them so helpless with laughter that they cannot continue fighting?

Winston Churchill once said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

After all this time and after all these failed initiatives we must be getting closer to doing the right thing  –  surely???

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Anyone Feel A Chill?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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The Sunday Sermon

USA-and-USSR-Flag

I know the summer is coming to a close, but the chill I’m talking about in this post is the one coming from the Cold War.

You remember it?

The thing that we though we had got rid of in 1992 when Daddy Bush said, “A world once divided into two armed camps now recognizes one, sole and pre-eminent power, the United States of America.”

That ended the Cold War and everyone was happy. America had won.

So why did it start again? And why did our politicians not have the gumption to avoid it?

Two pretty good questions, I think.

I suppose the answer is that it all started again because America desperately needs a bogey man – a global one, not some terrorist organization like Al Qaeda or ISIS.

It gives them a reason to keep the war machine going which is good for the economy.

It gives them the chance to tell the world that the choice they have to make is between America and Russia (in other words, between ‘good’ and ‘bad’).

good_v_bad

And indeed it used to be that way, when the Russian regime was hell bent on imposing their failed communist philosophy on the free world.

The problem is that America wasn’t content with winning. For some reason it felt it needed to win again.

This time it is trying to do so by bribing and coercing former Soviet satellite states into joining an economic and military (EU/NATO) alliance against Russia.

That has, understandably and predictably, provoked the Russians into once again flexing their muscles, the result of which we are starting to see in the Ukraine.

And so the Cold War begins again.

But it won’t be the same as the last one. Some things are very different.

This time America is bankrupt, not Russia, which on the contrary has massive wealth at its disposal. This time America is being perceived by the rest of the world as dithering and incompetent.

nsa-spying-scandal

And, thanks to the arrogance of organizations like the NSA, this time it is America, not Russia, who is perceived by the rest of the world as untrustworthy and untrusting of its allies. That’s quite the reversal of the old Cold War when it was the Russians who were notorious for listening in on conversations, bugging hotel rooms and the like.

In addition Russia is not currently bound to an outdated and failed communist dogma.

Despite all the bogus posturing of President Obama, who it seems can’t make up his mind to do anything, Russia will not allow NATO to set up shop in its backyard.

America has made a huge tactical mistake interfering so close to Russia. They are leaving Putin with little alternative but to do his own bit of posturing. The only difference is he means it.

When a bear is sleeping, poking it with a stick is never a wise move. Neither is trying to force it into a corner.

This time it may well bring consequences that none of us will like.

poking a sleeping bear

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