Why So Skeptical?

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Beginning of Spring, by Ivan Yendogurov, 1890. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

There is a great deal of skepticism about whether the Russians actually hacked anything to do with the election of our President-Elect Donald Trump, aside from the Clinton E-mails, which is insane, as that was the hacking, and the Russians did it.  Much of that skepticism is based not in reality but on commonly held biases that blind us to reality. People don’t want to believe, and seeing the seeds of doubt, decide to not believe… And there are alleged issues with the Joint Analysis Report. More on that later.

Before I do anything else though, I want to say this. I refuse to blame the Russians for Donald Trump winning the White House. That is thanks to the American people. Propaganda and hacking aside, it takes a conscious mind to vote for a person. The Russians did not, to my knowledge, hack election machines or fudge vote numbers in the Mr. Trump’s favor.

They fed Americans propaganda they wanted to hear, and twisted hearts and minds. And people ate it up.

What I do say is that Russia has a large and effective propaganda and hacking machine that uses several groups of hackers to steal information, and use it to the advantage of the Russian federation, under whose umbrella they work.

You ask for proof that hacking happened, that they’re really there and not just some twisted liberal conspiracy? Have you read the actual email that gave the hackers access to John Podesta’s email?

I have.

Podesta (and possibly his IT guy) missed the obvious phishing scheme. Anyone worth his or her salt will throw up a red flag if they see a short link attached to a support message about any potential site issues, like a hacked password. I only say an IT guy may have been involved is that the link was clicked twice. Who opens an attachment twice? No one I know, and I know some pretty damned computer illiterate people.

And ladies and gentlemen, that is how hacking happens. First they get in, find a back door, or convince you to open the front door, then they rob you blind.

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If we gather more and more data and establish more and more associations, however, we will not finally find that we know something. We will simply end up having more and more data and larger sets of correlations. ~ Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics, 1979

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Now, onto the Joint analysis report. It has been widely panned as off the mark. Why?Well, the report included both ‘general and unrelated malware family names’ as well as a ‘broad and non-descriptive classification of capabilities’ in a list they titled “Alternate names” On page four of the thirteen page report.

The title “alternate names” itself  is itself a bit of a giveaway as to what the government is trying to do here. It is simply a list of names to look out for when dealing with Russian hackers. The experts that are up in arms seem to have missed that rather general point. They weren’t breaking it down that precisely. If they had, they would have made the point of saying so.

The list has as a header List of Russian Military and Civilian Intelligence services.

Where in that name do you see anything about a specific breakdown into groupings of intelligence services, malware they used, or may have used in the past? I see none. The critique, while well intentioned, is misguided.

The rest of the report after that has nothing to do with Russian hackers. Nothing. The entirely of the remainder of the report is there to assist in what actions should be taken using the listed indicators including giving advice on how to better secure systems and threat mitigation strategies.

Oh and the first page of the report is a description of the report. Meaning the report itself, the pertinent information on hacking, is three pages long.

The report is not meant to be anything more than:1) a threat assessment of Russian hacking capabilities, 2)a short statement on known activities, 3) a list of names to look for, and 4) Basic steps to increase Cyber-Security.

The report has been called a technical exposé of Russian hacking.

It isn’t.

 This is an exposé of Russian hacking.

That government report is coming.

News here as it develops.

Early Morning Idle Talk

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It’s 6:00 am, and despite the fact that I’m on vacation I’m awake, have been since earlier than I normally get up on most work days. My wife and I just came back from the In-laws, and the cats, who boarded with our vet, we’re clearly not in the mood to let us sleep. So I’ve decided to run interference, for lack of a better term. I stay awake for a bit and they hang out with me so she can sleep. Later on, she’ll do the same for me.

Although, admittedly, she seems to now be awake and unhappy that I am awake. Do you see how decisions sometimes go awry? Lack of communication, though in this instance I think I have a legitimate excuse. She was asleep, or making the attempt to sleep well enough where I thought she was.

Which is fine.

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I love reading the news.

There’s a ton of stories out about fights breaking out all over America as retailers all across America became mosh pits for unruly shoppers. Which to me doesn’t sound like a bad thing, I’ve been known to jump in the occasional mosh pit after all. But apparently it was bad enough where in a number of cases the malls in question closed and some of the brawls may have been orchestrated in some fashion on social media. Or better put, anti-social asshole media.

And plus, you know, Capitalism. Life in America is all about the fight for the dollar, and where better to stage that fight then at your local Piggly Wiggly or Dollar General or Bed Bath and Beyond? Isn’t thirty percent off (and a lack of manners and social grace usually Wolverineassociated with feral wolverines) a reason to beat the crap out of a total stranger?

No? And you people wonder why Donald Trump won the Presidency. This is the America that we live in. Stupid, violent and prone to excess. This is what we are. As a nation. These are our future leaders.

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Wazzup wit dat, bruh?

It doesn’t bother me one bit either. Why? It points to where we are as a culture, what we deem important enough to fight over. It isn’t good government. It isn’t the rights of our brothers and sisters, regardless of what we may think of that. It’s a love of violence that is endemic to our species, even if many individuals decry the truth of that statement. It’s saving a few bucks on things that we have grown attached to. Base desires for material objects that are deemed socially desirable because of it’s cost-benefit on a personal level, despite our national dislike of math and the lack of money that goes along with that shameful dislike.

I’d prefer to have us show our true faces, so we can at least get a grip on who we are going forward, than mask it with some high minded bullshit and lie to ourselves about who and what we are. After all, a society is only as strong as it’s weakest link.

And America is filled with weak links.

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It is by its promise of a sense of power that evil often attracts the weak. ~ Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind

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It’s more than an hour later, and all the piss and vinegar seems to have left the cats, and they are now peacefully asleep, or perhaps not so peacefully awaiting  their next chance to strike and steal our ham and cheese. All I want to do is go back to sleep.

Thankfully my wife is blissfully asleep. Something is going right.

But I still have things to do. Clothes to wash, food to buy, things to get for my wife for her birthday.

I’ll give them what they want later. Not sure what’ll happen next, aside from a few more words…

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Twelve dead, forty others wounded in Chicago this weekend. Christmas weekend.

Much of this is being attributed to gang violence, and most of the dead were gang bangers.

Gangs police themselves apparently. And like the police, they miss and shoot people who didn’t have jack to do with anything they were doing.

Reminds me of the Henry Rollins lyric ” I see you say you hate Pigs so much, so why the hell you act like one? Because you’re civilized.”

It’s a short, sad, hard life, and these Darwin award winners were out to prove that this weekend.

Glad I don’t live in that shithole…Which may otherwise be a nice city but…c’mon, really? How nice can it be if that much shit happens there during Christmas?

Clean your shit up, Chicago.

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Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. ~ Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers, 1959

Fake News Isn’t Fake, and It Isn’t News

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What is news? Well, the dictionary definition (courtesy of Merriam Webster) is: News (n.) A report of a recent events.

What is fake? Fake (n.) One that is not what it purports to be.

These two words seem to be antonyms. If it’s news, it can’t be fake. If it’s fake, it can’t be news. So how did we end up with this “Fake news?”

Well, the words placed together themselves have as much to do with the intellectual laziness of both reporters and readers as anything. Why? Well, because the words “Purposefully, factually improper reporting from dubious and facetious sources with the intent of misleading the public.” is not exactly considered concise enough for twitter and the other terse forms of media where grabbing attention is more important than getting across your information accurately. Although there is a shorter, ten letter word that these people are forgetting about that fits the term even better than my long-winded though clearly accurate term.

I’ll get to it later.

How did the phenomena come to be? Simple. News, aka reality, did not go the way several groups of people wanted it to. There were people telling stories that others didn’t like, so they decided to create their own version of reality to fit their own needs.

Note I said several groups. Which groups? Right wing. Left wing. Single issue voters, like anti-vaxxers, Pro-life groups, pro-abortions rights groups. I do not know where it began, but it has existed since long before I was born. Probably before your grandparents were born, and each generation has found a way to make it happen, to create their own news. This thing that has taken over our newswires is nothing new. The new wrinkle that exists now is that it has left the fringe and has gone mainstream. It is no longer just the hallmark of conspiracy theorists and nutjobs, though they are still the greatest fomenters of this type of crap.

Just to make the point, here are a few stories from the past twelve months, with stories that were fabricated:

Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders in March, from a site that spoofed the New York Times, all the way down to fonts and reporter byline. Fake as hell. She endorsed Hillary, but endorsed no one until June.

Megan Kelly fired by Fox after Endorsing Hillary Clinton, was a story that surfaced in late August. Megyn is still there, and she did not actually endorse Hillary Clinton, or anyone to my knowledge, but that did not stop endingthefed.com from getting one of the larger fake news stories of the year out there and planted all over Facebook in late August.

Donald Trump won the popular vote: Nope. Hillary won by over three million votes, yet there are stories that are still circulating that the Donald actually won. And a side note here, The stories that abounded of millions of illegal votes being counted for Hillary are just as fake, no matter (Ahem, Mister Trump) who made the claim. The only voter fraud out there is the stuff floating around the heads of conspiracy theorists, aka people who can’t handle the truth of the world that exists around them.

The truth though, is out there to be had, if only you look, America.

Find out. Life is information, how you take it in dictates who you are. Hearing about anything from anyone is just something to whet the appetite, it isn’t the be all end all. Just hearing something from someone is never enough. We need to dig, to find out, to go past that initial level of knowledge and get to the actual story. Often times you will find the initial headline and the real story are often at odds with reality.

Wait… What? Oh, what’s that ten letter word I mentioned before that is even more accurate than fake news?

Propaganda.

We as a nation have lost our ability to realize what we are really looking at. We’ve been had, and our propensity to find cute terms to fit the world we want to live in, rather than using words that fit the world we do live in is making us dumber and weaker. Not just as a society, or as a culture, or even as a nation. Since this is not just an American phenomena, it is making us dumber and weaker as a species.

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Quote of the day: We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false. ~ William Casey, CIA Director at his first meeting as head of the organization, 1981.

No Different than Yesterday

445px-Initial_s_Paulus_Frank_1601eems like forever.

I haven’t written here in nearly a year.  Three hundred and forty eight days, if you include today.    I have not been idle in all that time. Some, not all.   I have been writing a great deal, some of my best work I think.  If you want to read it it’s over on writeisland.wordpress.com;  It’s fiction, sci-fi, horror, crime noir, paranoid fiction.  Lots of short stories, serialized.

If you enjoy that kinda thing by all means head on over.

I thought it was time to come back here and again write about the real world.  The real world is a nice place that has some insanely horrible things happen in it, often because of our own hubris, or stupidity, or insanity, or … something.  Things that the best fiction writers could not come up on their best days.

Let’s get started.

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My last post, almost a year ago, was written about the fun things that occur on the Korean peninsula.  So why not start where I left off, give you some level of continuity with news coverage.

It seems that Kim Jong-un is committing crimes against humanity.  He has between eighty and one hundred and twenty thousand political prisoners held in four locations.  He uses starvation as a form of punishment in these prison camps.  The system of resource allocation that the DPRK uses causes “avoidable” starvation among the population.

Some media outlets are using the word Nazi in reference to the treatment of the people of North Korea.  The head ofUN_building the UN commission has detailed all the crimes in a downloadable document you can get directly from the U.N. here, and I must tell you it is a compelling read about a place that exactly fits every negative aspect of the word orwellian.

The worst part about this?  We know, not just presume they are doing bad things to their people along with Japanese and South Koreans, but know they are doing it.  So what happens next?

Nothing.

Not a god damned thing.

Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry has called the report “Unreasonable criticism” and the reporting I have read, from the NYT  and the VOA, China will veto any action by the U.N. in this matter.  According to the NYT, She said “We believe that taking human rights violations to the International Criminal Court is not helpful in improving a country’s human rights situation.”

…Is not helpful…

If that isn’t helpful, if removing the problem by putting the people who are systematically raping and killing it’s own people and starving and torturing those they don’t do that to, what does work?  Asking nicely?  Saying “Pretty please, with sugar on top?”

Note that in nothing that I have quoted, or seen, they never say that North Korea is innocent.  They are saying that, “yes, they are guilty.”  But they are also saying “We don’t care what you think, we condone this behavior.”

They sound like criminals protecting other criminals.  Because they are.  By not helping bring the perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice, they become guilty of aiding and abetting that criminal activity.

By protecting the North Koreans, the Chinese themselves are guilty of crimes against humanity.

And by being so weak as to not be able to do anything about it, the United Nations proves itself a useless body when it comes to the dispensation of justice on a global level against any real criminal activity.

Crying damn shame.  But at the same time I can say that I am happy that I live in a country where those kinda things don’t happen. Because of the eternal vigilance of it’s people.

At least not yet.  Today things are fine, but the road ahead is murky, as always.

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I don’t know if I’m back to doing this here every day, but I know I won’t be ignoring it for another 348 days.

I’ll write to you again soon, America.  Catch you later.

Talk of War Blowing through the Korean Peninsula Yet Again

In a move that surprises absolutely no one who watches Korean politics with even mild interest, the two again are at each others throats.

In a statement that is even less of a surprise than the two Koreas being at each others throats, The North Koreans claim they have nullified non-aggression agreements with the South Koreans.

In another statement equally as expected given the nature of the relationship between these two nations, A general from the North is claiming that it has nuclear ICBM’s ready to launch.

A counter claim by the South has made the very forseeable claim that if the North uses it’s nukes that Kim Jong-Un would be wiped from the face of the earth.

Now if we could only see how this thing will end.

There are always problems between these two nations, but with the new Kim on the throne in the north, there is a new unpredictability about this once very unsurprising dance these two nations dance with one another.

The experts say that the north doesn’t have the ICBM’s to do what they claim they can do. If they are right then this dance stays predictable, at least it’s ending.  Which is that the North and South, for all there bluff and bluster will really not do much of anything and will in the end maybe fight a small skirmish or two and be done with it.

They have threatened the U.S. before and have done it again, this time threatening to blast America and it’s followers into a “sea of fire.”

Nice way to start the weekend, don’t ya think?

Pointless Legislation

Just in case you weren’t sure, there is such a thing as pointless legislation.  Legislation that may make a point in some way shape or form, but does nothing substantive.  Such a piece of legislation passed through the House of Representatives with bi-partisan support.

The legislation itself is fairly simple. What it does is orders the President to put in the cost of the deficit, per taxpayer of each years spending.  Meaning that if the deficit for the year 2013 is one trillion dollars, and there are 145 million tax returns put in, which is the average, then the President would have to, by law, tell you, dear taxpayer that it costs you an average of around $6896.55

Which is nice, but what can you do with that information?  Look at the number and say “Dayum!  That’s a lot of money!” That is really about it.  It’s sole purpose is to be a reminder that “decisions have real world consequences” says the man who sponsored the legislation, rookie Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana.

It may look to him like it creates an aura of accountability, putting a real number in dollars that an individual can wrap their head around, but it does have an additional consequence.  It will show definitively the amount the annual deficit is actually dropping.  The annual deficit for this year is expected for the first time since 2007 to be under a trillion dollars.  It is supposed to drop to under half a trillion per year by 2015 before going back up due to the cost of all those baby boomers retiring.

The problem with legislation like this is pretty simple.  It does nothing.  This legislation won’t take away from the deficit, it won’t add jobs, it won’t make America a better place, and points to the way Republicans do things.

They like to draw attention to the things that are happening in the world, while not doing a single solitary thing about them.  Mr. Messer is not serving his constituents well here. They would be better served if they had a congressman who tried to get legislation through that does something about the deficit, or job creation, something substantive rather than this cutesy useless crap that does nothing for anyone.

It isn’t the law yet, but I can’t see any reason this silliness wouldn’t become law.  It has to get through the Senate, and being innocuous crap, it should not have any issue getting through the Senate and to the White House.  It will probably get through the Senate in much the same way it got through the House, by a fairly wide margin.

The Smallest Pawns in a Large Game

The cuts that are taking place thanks to sequestration are being reported much of the time in relation to large scale programs.  In terms of billions of dollars and the mass effect of the cuts.

But the reality of sequestration is far from what is being reported and being spoken about in the press.

It is instead a story of those in need being forced to go without.  The story of thousands of children, special needs children being told to do without.  Thousands of parents of autistic children being told their kids can go without the programs that they need to give their kids the things they need to get by every day.

There is a reason I mention that.  I have a niece and a nephew, both with autism, both who will be affected.  One is turning 11, the other is 8.  I spoke to my brother today, in passing.  My brother’s son is the eight year old.  The boy loves him some Teenage mutant ninja turtles and Spiderman.  He loves going to school.  He loves his teacher, whose name I forget.  Kisses her goodbye every time he leaves school for the day. I’ve been there to pick im up a few times from school.

He is autistic.  Without the help from his teachers and the school system, funded by the federal government, he would not be able to get the help he needs.

The other, my cousin’s daughter loves her teachers and her shows and toys as much as my brother’s son does.  And she needs them more. Though my eye in these matters is neither precise nor educated, she seems to be more affected by autism than he, and he is not just slightly affected.  Speech is affected.  As is thought.  As is emotional control.  As are almost every basic thing we non affected sentient beings take for granted. These kids work on this and more every day, with help from tireless hard-working teachers who give everything they can for these kids.

Apparently one of the first cuts going through in these parts is in education cuts.  So they are losing that, only part of it to begin with.  Half is what my brother told me when I spoke to him earlier today.

How many times can they turn their heads and pretend that they don’t see?

No.

They know.

They see.

These kids, and by extension “We The People” are pawns in a game of chess played by rich men for the control of the money and power, and of who gets both.  Because of that the face of sequestration should not be the face of corporations shutting their doors, bad as that will be when it happens, and it will happen. It is not masses of people made to suffer.  That can be refused, propagandized, compartmentalized.  Turned into something other.  Political will can turn any full grown adult’s pain into something to be looked down on, turned to advantage by the slick marketing of political will.

It is the face of a child asked to go without.

Asked to go without by the protectors of billionaires, by a rich man’s son for no reason other than the greed of adults who should know better.

Sleep tight, America.