Saturday, May 20, 2017

Heroes or villains?

Washington has been turned inside out recently by leaks to the press telling us what's REALLY going on there behind closed doors.  Meanwhile the debate heats up....are the leakers heroes or villains?

Many see the issue in black or white terms.  The hard-core Trumpsters and Tea Party-types seem to think the leakers are all traitors, no exceptions.  "We need to find those who spilled the beans about President Trump giving away intelligence secrets and send them to prison for life + 20 years."  Ummm....what about the fact that Prez Trump GAVE AWAY INTELLIGENCE SECRETS?  That doesn't seem to bother them.

Then the crowd who has no love for Mr. Trump thinks that the leakers are all saints and deserve the Medal Of Honor.  Whether it's tidbits about whether the President's feet stink or whether he has a Russian KGB mistress on the side, it's all good.  Unless it smudges the reputation of one of their favorite mobsters politicians, then they want to lock 'em away, too.

It seems to me there is a huge gray area not being considered, namely WHAT is being leaked.  If the leaker sees what is going on behind closed doors and honestly believes a crime is being committed, or if they see a blatant misuse of power, and if they also see an active coverup in progress, then I can understand why they might want to put their career and maybe even their freedom on the line for the good of the country.  

A good example would be Mark Felt, the #2 man at the FBI during the infamous Watergate scandal back in '72.  He knew what was going on, saw the nefarious efforts being taken to protect President Nixon, and knew it was wrong.  His conscience told him to feed tips to Washington Post journalists Woodward and Bernstein, enabling them to get the truth out to the American people.  If his identity had been known he would surely have lost his job at the FBI and perhaps even been prosecuted.  (His identity was kept secret for 30 years.)

This contrasts to leakers like Wikileaks' Julian Assange.  He isn't leaking what he does out of some sort of righteous indignation of a wrong going unpunished.  He's just a prick.  He wants to pick and choose who he hurts and who he helps based on his personal likes and dislikes.  He just loves causing trouble and sticking a sharp stick in the eye of anyone who he feels slighted him or someday might slight him.  Plus he's a misogynist.

IMO, leakers can be both heroes (like Mr. Felt) or villians (like Mr. Assange), depending on their motives.  So far, the leakers who are coming out with disturbing info regarding President Trump and his associates and their actions vis a vis Russia seem to fall into the category of the former.  The copycat leakers likely to eventually show up with nothing more than embarrassing gossip looking for their 15 minutes of fame deserve the latter title.

Let's look at motives carefully before we assign either medals or prison uniforms.

S


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Old habits die hard


At age 70 Donald Trump became our oldest President.  Prior to his election he enjoyed a financially successful career in the rough-and-tumble, cutthroat world of high-stakes commercial development.  Deals are usually measured in the hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars.  It isn't a profession for the timid.  With that much money at stake, they'd throw their mama under the bus if that's what it took to close a deal.

There are no telling how many times in his career Mr. Trump has gone to a zoning official or building inspector, put his hand on his shoulder, and told him he'd "really appreciate it if you could make this little violation go away."  He might have even followed it up with "You're a smart guy.  If you ever get tired of workin' for city wages, come look me up.  We can always use someone with your talents."  And with that....problem gone.  And if not, a phone call later that zoning official or building inspector became the new South Side illegal dumping deputy assistant / third shift.  That's the way things often work in that world.

The problem for President Trump is that he brought that same method of problem solving with him into his White House.  


Early in President Trump's business career his attorney was Roy Cohen, the same Roy Cohen who made a name for himself representing Joseph McCarthy and later numerous organized crime bosses.  Mr. Cohen's modus operandi was simple:  Attack!  Bully!  Intimidate!  Bluff!  They hit you, you hit them back X 10.  They sue you, you counter-sue them for 10 times as much.  Wear 'em down.  Never admit anything.  Donald Trump was a good study.

Fast forward to January, 2017.  President Trump told Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to defend his travel ban and she refused, saying it was illegal (and courts later agreed).  "You're FIRED!"

February, 2017.  President Trump (supposedly) asked FBI Director Comey for a personal loyalty oath, something not uncommon to demand from his former business subordinates.  Comey refused.  Then Trump told Mr. Comey he would like to see the investigation of Michael Flynn go away.  It didn't, and in fact the investigation widened.  "You're FIRED!"

It was a sleazy way to do business, and it's a completely unacceptable way to run a country.  At age 70 I doubt he is willing to change his ways.  "It worked then, why not now?"  The White House isn't Trump Tower, and Congress and the Courts aren't going to jump to attention when he snaps his fingers.  If he keeps this up, and I think he will, a taxpayer funded moving van will probably sooner rather than later be pulling up in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Stay tuned.

S


Monday, May 15, 2017

It looks like we put all our eggs in one basket, then dropped the basket


Unless you spent the entire weekend with mom slugging down mimosas in honor of her day, you'll probably know there's a nasty ransomware virus going around, infecting hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide that use the Microsoft Windows operating system.  Specifically, 200,000 computers in 150 countries have been hit so far, with the cyber-attackers demanding a $300 extortion to be paid in Bitcoins.  The UK's National Health Service, the German railway system, Chinese universities, many international businesses and others have all had their files locked up.

It seems that our NSA nerds found a flaw in the Windows system and utilized it to [CENSORED].  Unfortunately their secret got out and hackers developed it into this "Wannacry" virus, and now here we are all over the internet with our pants down around out ankles looking foolish.

Bad as this is, this is chump change compared to what might have happened.  What if they had hacked in and just hit the DELETE button?  What if all that info just permanently disappeared?  It could take months or even years to reconstruct it all, if that's even possible.  

As I've written about in the past, this is the new face of warfare.   No hostile military power is likely to roll 10,000 tanks across the border and invade the US or Germany or any other developed western nation.  There's no need to if they can just worm their way into our computer systems and knock out our stock exchanges, our medical centers, our research centers, etc.  They can bring us to our knees without firing a shot.

I know we have an army of cyber-security experts working to prevent this, but they will always be at a disadvantage.  Those on offense...in this case the cyber-attackers...know what they're going to hit, and when, and where, and exactly how.  Those on defense...our cyber-security experts...have to try and cover all bases all the time.  IF they can even identify all the bases.

This is the new normal.  We are hopelessly addicted to computers.  They control everything.  And with 90% of the world's computers running on the (apparently) super-vulnerable Microsoft Windows operating system, I have to wonder why we haven't kicked Microsoft to the curb years ago?  M/S seems to work 24/7 just developing new patches to fix their old patches.  DOH!  Isn't there anything safer/better?

Bottom line....there will always be hackers, and they will often win.  We will be increasingly inconvenienced, and likely even crippled now and then.  Count on it.  Individually, all I can think to do is hoard cash, for when our bank accounts and ATM's and such are zapped, cash will always be king.  I have no idea how businesses and other major institutions will defend themselves.  That's way above my pay grade.

S


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Poor guy can't buy a break. Well, on second thought, maybe he can.

Noooooooo!

President Donnie John Trump is now interviewing for a new FBI Director after he canned previous Top Cop James Comey earlier this week.  Many sources say Texas Senator John Cornyn is the front runner for the position.

So let's see....Sen. Cornyn is tall, well groomed, distinguished looking, very white....and tall, and.....umm....is not currently under indictment.  That pretty much sums him up.  But he's also NOT just your average, run-of-the-mill Senator.  He's the (Republican) Senate Majority Whip, second-in-command only to Mitch McConnell, which by definition means he's HIGHLY PARTISAN.  Mitch says "jump", Cornie says "how high?"  He loyally does what he's told.  That's how you get to an upper leadership position in either party.

Didn't The Donald supposedly ask James Comey for his loyalty over dinner one evening, and when Comey sidestepped the question, was shortly thereafter fired?  We know in his business dealings President Trump put a high premium on loyalty, which isn't an unreasonable thing to expect in a business setting.  But an FBI Director should show allegiance to the Constitution, not to the POTUS or any other individual.  

 Right now President Trump really, REALLY needs an FBI Director who will reign in the police dogs who are hot after him.

Having watched my state's Senator in action for some time now, I'm thinking Mr. Cornyn just might be the whore "yes-man" Team Trump wants to have on their speed dial.

We (The People), however, deserve better.  We deserve an FBI Director who is a seasoned federal prosecutor, a high-level law enforcement officer, or an experienced intelligence guy, someone not in the gravity field of either political party.  Is this asking too much?  Please, no more contaminated political hacks.

S



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Careful which horse you hitch your wagon to


Another day, another head-shaking, eye-rolling, LOL revelation surfaces in Washington, DC.  I must hand it to the Republicans....when they throw a scandal, they throw a doozie!  Take notes Democrats.  You're up next, and we don't want any lame "theft of government office supplies" crap.  Where's the fun in that?

Prez Trump fires the FBI Director, fired Acting Atty General Sally Yates said she drew them a picture of who was caught with their pants down (figuratively speaking), Flynn did this, Russia did that...*sigh*...this is a circus!

What I can't figure out is why virtually every House and Senate Republican is doing all he/she can to stonewall any investigation into what the Russians might have had to do with our recent elections and the Trump campaign?  There may not be any felonious flames visible, but there is enough smoke to be seen from outer space!

Meanwhile, virtually every Democrat is calling for a Special Prosecutor to be appointed to pursue a non-partisan investigation.  The Dems feel (probably with some justification) that Congressional Committees chaired by Republicans will just give Trump a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card.   They also know the Republicans will never give them control of any investigation (I don't blame them), and a Special Prosecutor is likely the only way to honestly find out WTH is going on.

If I was a Congressional Republican I would commit suicide welcome the opportunity to get myself out of all this Russia/Trump mess.  I would just say there was too much People's business to do to waste any more time on this sideshow.  Let a Special Prosecutor take it and run with it and see where it goes, if anywhere.  But they for some reason just keep doubling down and saying they can handle it in Congress, no Special Prosecutor, no no NO!

Where is the upside to defending Trump?  If he gets run out of town, they get the plastic white haired guy.  And if Trump survives, he'll be too toxic to associate with.

S




Tuesday, May 9, 2017

THE REPUBLICANS ARE COMING! THE REPUBLICANS ARE COMING!

I have all my adult life consciously fought to keep myself from be pigeonholed as a Democrat or a Republican.  In general I think of myself as being just a bit right of center, but certainly no ideologue.  On some subjects I'm a bit left leaning, on others a bit right leaning.  It just seemed smart for me to keep my options open, and to not just obediently fall in line with the ideology of either party.  My independence kept my bullshit detection meter sharp.



Until recently it seemed to me both parties worked hard to front populist agendas, while behind the scenes they had entirely different and not quite so pure motives.  "Vote for us....we understand how difficult life can be for middle-class Americans, and we're committed to blah, blah, blah."  However, now that the Republicans have won control of the House and the Senate and the White House, they seem to have decided to just go for broke.  One big roll of the dice.  They have stepped out from behind their curtain and just put it all on the table.  Their entire reason for being can be boiled down to just two words:


TAX CUTS

Everything Republicans talk about today, from a "border wall" to a "travel ban" to "healthcare reform" is just to disguise what they really want.  The entire reason they so want to "Repeal and Replace Obamacare" is to free up a TRILLION dollars and pass it back to a select few of their special interests via TAX CUTS.  They don't give a damn about better healthcare choices for the people.  If they did they wouldn't have taken a bad system and replaced it with something worse.  Likewise, their desire to "reform Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security" is just code for "gut it and fatten up our TAX CUT" by, oh, I dunno, maybe ANOTHER TRILLION dollars.  Gut education, gut environmental protection, gut the State Department....Cha Ching!

And if anyone gets in their way, Heaven help 'em.  If the Democratic minority makes waves, cut 'em off at the knees!  Pull the trigger on the Nuclear Option that now suspends ALL Senate filibusters.  If someone threatens their Executive puppet who will ultimately sign their TAX CUT legislation, such as the FBI Director (who is currently investigating said Executive puppet), fire him!  Just whack him!  Will anyone else dare to speak up against them?  If they do will they just disappear in the night like an Argentinian dissident?

In fairness, the Democratic Party has had their turn wielding the political sledgehammer, too, but at their worst they never just ripped off their "smiley face" masks and started blatantly raping and pillaging like the Republicans are doing today.  They at least gave us a kiss while they were bending us over.  

IMO we're at a serious Constitutional crossroad in our history.  We've been hoodwinked, and I think it's becoming more obvious by the day.  Will enough of our elected officials, of both parties, join together and recognize for once that they work for US and not just a few special interests, or will we someday soon have to take matters more forcefully into our own hands? 

S


Saturday, May 6, 2017

The only acceptable outcome: We win, they lose

When Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, it was pretty obvious who did it....the sky was full of planes emblazoned with the Rising Sun.  Japan!

The same was true in 1939 when Germany attacked Poland, in 1967 when Israel got the jump on the Arab nations surrounding them, and in 1991 when the USA went into Saddam Hussein's Iraq.  It was obvious who the combatants were because they had insignia on their tanks and planes and uniforms.  It was mano a mano, black hats vs white hats.  Old school warfare.  

But when peasant guerillas worked their Vietnamese fields by day, then went on the attack at night, it was difficult to know who we were fighting.  The rules began to change.  Today they're changing again.  Today we're being attacked, and this time we're not even sure who or where they are.

Hitler couldn't say, "Nope, those aren't our guys" after we saw them.  There was physical evidence to the contrary.  But today Russia's Vladimir Putin, after his cyber-warriors hacked into sensitive American political files and emails, can simply say "This is nonsense.  We have done nothing.  Show me your proof."  His cyber-soldiers don't leave behind flags or insignia on the side of tanks or airplanes. 

Our geeks can today finally say with great certainty it was Russia who interfered with our recent national elections (while not impossible, it's extremely difficult to backtrack a cyber attack), and I'm sure after a month or so of intensive investigation France will say it was also Russia who tried to influence their election (which BTW is tomorrow/Sunday).  German elections are later this year, and I'll bet you a steak dinner Russian political hacking will occur then, too, with the aim of helping whichever candidate Putin thinks will be more friendly to him.  All our aircraft carriers and ICBM's and special forces will be helpless to defend us.  We're not going to nuke someone we're not absolutely certain harmed us.  It's unthinkable, and Putin knows it.

National security no longer necessarily means guarding a border or builder bigger, better bombs.  It means outsmarting our adversaries while not getting caught ourselves.  We need to review where we're spending our defense dollars.  We need more for science and technology education, and less for some stupid border wall.

Ronald Reagan showed the Soviet Union they didn't have the financial resources to go toe-to-toe with us militarily, which caused them to throw in the Cold War towel.  Donald Trump needs to double down on the economic sanctions Barack Obama and our allies put in place to back down Putin today, and maybe even cyber attack them just enough to show them two can play that game.  If Mr. Trump flinches, IMO that should be grounds for impeachment followed by a treason trial.  We can't lose this one!  Cut Putin no slack Mr. President, and for Pete's sake, get yourself and/or your people out of bed with him.