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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The Entertainer Continues

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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donald trump thumbs up

If Donald Trump has done nothing else, apart from entertaining us, he has raised some uncomfortable truths for Americans to face.

For too many years people in America have had the luxury of sitting on the fence, avoiding taking stands on moral issues, or issues affecting minority groups in their country.

They’re frightened.

Frightened of looking like cranks.

Frightened of pseudo-intellectuals (who really know very little) mocking them.

Frightened of not being part of the herd.

Frightened of not appearing ‘nice’.

Lower that Confederate flag and raise a white one, quick!

Dear help us.

Confederate battle flag flies in South Carolina
Confederate flag comes down at South Carolina Capitol after half century

People, and not only in America, have been conditioned to act the same, buy the same gadgets, watch the same TV shows and even dress the same. If it continues they’ll all be dressed in similar suits like China in the days of Chairman Mao, only with little red smartphones instead of little red books.

More importantly than all these, the people are being conditioned to ‘think’ the same. ‘Sheeple’ are easier to control than ‘free thinking people’ and as we know it is all about control.

When I said they’re ‘frightened’, I meant Americans have been conditioned into being afraid to stick their own heads above the parapet.

But when occasionally someone does it for them then they secretly cheer – but not too loud mind you in case someone hears.

That’s why Trump enjoyed a surge in the polls after his remarks about illegal immigrants and how they are not all perfect human beings. Everybody knew it but were afraid to say it.

The political elites, most of them anyway, would never be caught saying what they really think – in public. Admittedly Trump said it in his own brash and loud style, but at least he said it.

You don’t have to agree with him – far from it – but you do have to acknowledge that he said what many thousands of ordinary Americans were thinking yet were afraid to say.

Many of these ordinary Americans are probably living in areas where there have been massive influxes of immigrants. They know how it has affected them. In these areas English has become a second language. Social problems have increased and crime has gone up. And everyone is afraid to say why.

More to the point, they know from first-hand experience that this new ethnic diversity has failed to provide the benefits that the liberal political elites promised it would.

Facts are facts are facts.

the-american-dream

Many people have come to America to live the ‘dream’ and better themselves. But many others have come to take advantage of what they regard as a soft target for crime.

Many of Trump’s critics are just as guilty of trying to get publicity for themselves as perhaps Trump is making the remarks in the first place.

But the critics exhibit a sadly familiar and predictable pattern. They see an empty talking head on TV, think it’s smart, and then say the same things or a slight variation thereof. That makes them think they look smart too, except of course it doesn’t, because the talking head on TV was empty, not smart at all.

Many of these detractors have gone so far as to say that Trump’s remarks are not “presidential”.

The big question, that unfortunately is not being asked in blazing headlines in the media, is why in America today is it not ‘presidential’ to tell the truth, or to give a true expression of what you believe?

If that is now really the case then it is a sad reflection of American society and not something to be proud of.

You have another choice though.

If you want a liar in the White House there’s always Hillary.

hillary clinton liar

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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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