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.
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., 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.”
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.
Catering for the lowest common denominator in intelligence can be very frustrating for the rest of us.
But apparently stupidity has reached levels today where stupid people will hurt themselves with things that shouldn’t hurt them, if they had the wit to understand what they were and how use them properly.
Personally I think there is some merit in letting them get on with it and perhaps thereby gradually eliminating chronic stupidity from the gene pool.
In the meantime all we can do is cringe and laugh.
The World Wide Web, created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, turned 25 years old this year, 2014.
There has never been anything like it before, certainly not as regards the impact it has made on society and the way we live our lives. Many of those changes are good, many are not so good and a few are downright annoying.
Here’s my take on some of them.
To concentrate on the good parts first, the one thing the www has done, for those who can use it effectively, is to give access to information that was previously only available to the elite few who managed to claw their way into the lofty heights of academia, or who worked in places where information was readily available. Now the same information is accessible at the touch of a button to anyone and everyone with a smart phone, tablet or computer.
Another benefit, in my view anyway, is that is has sent a massive wake-up call to telephone providers world wide, many of whom were fast asleep, content to rake in healthy profits from antiquated systems. No longer do we have to settle for slow and temperamental data transfer lines. Nowadays, particularly in the last few years, people are demanding systems that can cope with download streams in the gigabyte range. If you are old enough to remember the first modems you will know you wasted too much of your life trying to download at 12Kb/sec., sometimes less.
Freedom is also a welcome by-product of the World Wide Web.
The freedom to work in any country in the world, from virtually any country in the world is one big plus – it is for me anyhow. Another one I particularly like is the freedom to watch TV programs that I like, when I like, no longer tied to the schedules of some brainless bean-counter working for a broadcasting company. And the freedom to have your say on things as and when the mood takes you – they call that blogging don’t you know! – is also a great advantage to the ordinary person.
As is the freedom to disseminate information across the globe instantly, as Mr Snowden ably demonstrated, although I would hazard a guess that the powers that be would not agree with me on that one.
Indeed, this is the one aspect of the www that really bothers big brother.
China for example is one country where access is controlled by the state. Coincidentally this year also marks the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, you’ll find articles about that if you do a search, but probably not in China. They get away with it because they are not a democracy and do not pretend to be one.
In other countries, like the good old Land Of The (Not So) Free (Anymore)), the powers still like to con their people into believing that they are living in a democratic nation and that the people have the power to vote for this or that. But think for a moment, when was the last time you got to vote on whether to start a war, or whether to give $billions of your money to the greedy banksters to pay themselves huge bonuses and gamble away the rest?
It is because they need to keep the pretence of democracy going, that they do not yet have the confidence to start overtly censoring the internet. But they do all they can to snoop on what people are reading, or writing, or looking at.
This is where the freedom the www and associated technology provides can also be a negative, when it is used by governments to surveil us and record every piece of data they can. If they were doing this selectively and targeting terrorists and criminals no one would be too worried. But they are doing it to all of us, guilty and innocent alike.
They are also doing everything they can think of to impose taxes on internet commerce – of course they have to coz they’re stoney broke.
The www has revolutionized business practices and created all sorts of new commerce opportunities, Amazon perhaps being the best example of a company that has gone from nothing to a multi-billion dollar business in just a few years.
Communication and social interaction are also areas where the www has liberated the ordinary person – first with email and more recently with social media. In the near future expect to see social media expanding to become much more than individual platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. We are already seeing many new applications that are allowing people to communicate more widely, more easily and more often.
Another negative is that the World Wide Web has unwittingly facilitated the proliferation of pornography and violence, and is teaching a generation of morons all the wrong things. Things that will ensure they become a burden on society, not an asset.
And it has also opened a whole new environment in which criminals can operate. Millions of dollars are being stolen every day through scams, confidence tricks and outright theft.
You could say (and I frequently do) that people dumb enough to fall for these scams deserve all they get, or all they lose, is perhaps a better way of putting it. You know, the idiots who believe they really have won a lottery they didn’t buy a ticket for, or who think that Dr Umbungo Watanga from Nigeria is being truthful when he tells them that someone they never heard of has left them $25 million and all they need to do is send all their personal details and a few thousand dollars to unlock the fortune that awaits them. There really is one born every minute it seems!
All that said, and twenty-five years on, the www is still in its infancy. We have come a long way in the past 25 years, but we have really only scratched the surface as regards what the web has the potential to do to further improve our daily lives.
Where the vision to develop the www will come from in anyone’s guess. The only thing we know for sure is that the initiative won’t come from governments or their bureaucratic servants, simply because the people we elect to those positions do not have the required intelligence.
So its up to you. If you have any great ideas you want to share, send me an email.
You may remember, more because of the movie than anything else probably, an incident in 1993 called ‘Black Hawk Down’ which caused American troops to leave Somalia.
At that time they had been stationed there as part of a United Nations ‘stabilization’ operation – whatever that is.
President Clinton abandoned that effort after the ‘Battle of Mogadishu’ in which nearly 20 American soldiers were killed and horrific images of their bodies being dragged through the streets by Somalia militiamen had been seen all over the world on television.
Since then American military and intelligence efforts have been in the form of funding the Somalia military and using remotely controlled drones to keep an eye on what is happening on the ground and perhaps more.
Or so we thought. After all, the last thing we want to do is get bogged down again on the ground in such an inhospitable place.
Cue the Obama administration and guess what? Yep, the US Army has once again secretly stationed a group of regular troops in Somalia. Since October last year a “military coordination cell” has been established in Somalia that, to quote the officer in charge, “is now fully operational”.
I’m not sure even Obama knows what they are there to do. There isn’t an American embassy to protect and they would hardly be there to draw unwanted attention to the people from charlie india alpha, would they?
Official sources say the army unit has been tasked with “advising and coordinating” operations by African troops against al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked group that controls large parts of Somalia.
Okay, so let’s say US forces have been deployed in Africa as part of the war against terror.
So perhaps that establishes what US Foreign Policy strategy is, i.e. to fight the war against terror.
Let’s move a bit further north-east. To Syria in fact.
For the past while the US has been covertly backing the anti-Assad forces in the Syrian conflict. Seemed to make sense since Assad is friends with the likes of Iran and Russia. Except for the fact that the anti-Assad forces were in fact made up of the same type of al-Qaeda-linked groups that the US is against in Somalia.
Confused? You should be.
If there was any principle involved they would have been better not backing either side. But of course principle and politics rarely mix.
And just to add to the confusion it was confirmed last week that secret meetings have been held between ‘Western intelligence officials’ and senior members of the Syrian government, aimed at “combating radical Islamist groups” in Syria.
Maybe it IS all beginning to make sense. At least we can detect a consistent pattern emerging, and it seems to be this:
ignore the long term dangers, and fund and supply terrorist groups just because they happen to be at odds with people you don’t like; and then when you realize what a mess you’ve made, send in American troops to correct the mistake, never mind that they are going to get killed and maimed by weapons paid for by America.
American foreign policy has been a shambles for decades. It doesn’t get better by repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
America has the strength and the military power to police the world, of that there is no doubt. But does that mean it really has to? Especially when the policy to direct such a strategy is made by incompetent politicians who clearly do not understand the world they are trying to police.
Confusion and failure has been and will be the result. That and the needless sacrifice of the brave souls whose job it is to clear up the mess.
If you have read any of my previous entries in the politics section of this blog you will already be aware of my extremely low opinion of the intelligence of those in America who are in charge of foreign policy.
These idiots blunder about knowing little of history or tradition in other nations and make quick reaction judgments that are short sighted and that have continually come back to bite them on the ass.
Well, not them exactly, but the poor servicemen and women who are sent in to mop up their messes.
So what has got me ranting this time?
Only the fact that the morons in charge are currently negotiating what is being called ‘a groundbreaking agreement’ that will give American nuclear know-how to the country where Osama Bin Laden and the vast majority of the 9/11 terrorists came from.
Yes, Saudi Arabia.
The short-sighted US strategy is probably to assist an ally (an oil rich one, of course) to make it an unconquerable target for any of the other states in the area who have expansionist plans for the future.
Great – while the Saud family stay in control, or while a sensible member of the Saud family is in charge.
But what happens if, sometime down the road, the ruling dynasty is overthrown? Not an unknown occurrence in the Middle East. Or what happens if one day there is the equivalent of an ‘Osama’ in the Saud family just as there was in the Bin Laden family?
And what happened to all those non proliferation agreements designed to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of those incapable of handling them sensibly?
The last thing the Middle East needs is yet another country developing nuclear weapons capability. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out.
If the consequences were not so potentially tragic, it would be fun watching the political morons in Washington justifying going to war to take nuclear capability away from Iran, which at least holds democratic elections, yet at the same time giving nuclear capability to Saudi Arabia which is an undemocratic dictatorship.
Not even the most devout liberal could spin that one to make it sound good!
It wouldn’t be a Monday without another selection of answers given by members of the public on television and radio quiz shows, where all that’s required to feature is a brain by-pass. As usual the hapless contestants employ all devices to come up with an answer – all devices that is except for intelligence and logic.
Read on and you’ll see.
Q: Name something a man might ask for if he made a deal with the devil
Q: Name something people pitch
Q: Name a magazine that a mother would love to see her son on the cover of
A: USA Today
Q: Name a famous magician
A: Tom Cruise
Q: Name something a man might do to look good that he doesn’t want people to know about
A: Stuff his pants
Q: Name a fruit found in fruitcake
Q: An appliance you can’t live without
Q: Name a bill that’s always more than you expected it to be
A: $100 bill
A: $50 bill
Q: Name a place you go to, to listen to music
Q: Name something you should do in moderation or you’ll be sorry later
Q: Name a card game that’s easy to cheat at
Q: Name a famous resort area outside of the continental United States
Q: Name a time when people go to bed
Q: Name a TV show that took place on an island, past or present
A: Miami Vice
A: General Hospital
Q: Name a real person who made a living scaring people
A: Red Skelton
Q: How often your parents punished you as a child
A: 5 times
Q: The city with the world’s greatest art collections
Q: Name a food people give as a gift
Q: Name something people associate with a sumo wrestler
No, I’m not tilting at windmills, not just yet anyhow. And despite the play on words in the title, nor am I referring to Cervantes character Don Quixote. This post actually does concern a donkey, though. In fact animals in general.
It is a little known fact that donkeys kill more people than plane crashes. And at the end of August I read about a small town Texas mayor who was killed in an attack by his own donkey. He was Bill Bohlke and he was Mayor of Hollywood Park in Atascosa County, Texas.
That unfortunate event set me thinking of a number of things.
First I asked myself how the heck you pronounced his surname.
Then I wondered if Mayor Bohlke was a Republican or Democrat and how macabre it would have been if the donkey had done away with his elephant man rival.
And then I thought about the amazing and different ways people find to leave the mortal coil. I bet, like most of us, the last thing Mayor Bohlke thought was that some day he would meet his end from an attack from a randy donkey!
And then I marveled at how so many people, for no logical reason, have a romantic fantasy notion that animals are not inherently dangerous. They are.
And this is true for people who work with them every day and should know better.
For example, when I was growing up I would spend time at my uncle’s farm. He had a herd of one hundred or more dairy cows and every evening when I was there my cousin and myself would be sent out to the fields to bring the cows in for milking.
We had a couple of great little collie dogs to help us, not that much help was needed because the cows had a routine and once they heard us calling for them they made their way to the field gate and up the lane to the milking parlor, glad no doubt that they were about to be relieved of their burden once more.
With them came the bull. A huge brute of an animal and unbelievably strong. But he was docile enough, walked up with his herd of ‘wives’ and while they made their way into the queue for the milking machines he would usually lie down in the hayshed and munch on some of the hay.
As innocent (dumb) kids we would sometimes sit down beside him, even using him as a prop to lean against. He didn’t seem to mind a bit, we thought he was glad of the company perhaps.
Then one day as the herd was being ushered back out to the fields Mr Bull totally out of the blue decided he would like to kill my uncle.
Luckily us kids had our chore done in bringing the herd in to get milked. When the time came to take them back out again we were engaged on other vital business, I can’t remember exactly what but I’m sure it involved football, playing cowboys and Indians, fending off some galactic foe who was attacking earth that day, or some such vital stuff. But we could hear the commotion in the distance.
Furious about something, only he knew what, the bull roared angrily and ran towards my uncle who had been leading the way. With his head lowered he hit my uncle between his lower back and his knees and threw him up into the air like a rag doll – and my uncle was a BIG man. Very fortunately the bull tossed him into the air with such force that he went clean over the raised fence and hedge on the right hand side of the lane and ended up in one of the fields.
The crazy bull then tried to go after him but couldn’t get up the steep embankment on which the fence had been constructed. Another cousin, quite a bit older than us, saw the attack. He was in a tractor and he immediately had the presence of mind to use that to take the bull’s attention away from my uncle. The distraction seemed to work, because as suddenly as it had started it was over and things were back to normal.
But my uncle had learned a valuable lesson. Animals can be dangerous.
So had I, even though I wasn’t there at the time, but from then on I haven’t been a fan of bulls – not in Chicago or Wall Street either come to think of it.
Unfortunately Mayor Bohlke wasn’t so lucky with his donkey.