Archive for the ‘Non-Middle East’ Category

Forget Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya – There is a Much BIGGER & MORE SERIOUS Invisible WAR Going On Right Now: The Cyberwar

August 4, 2011 Comments off
Dmitri Alperovitch

McAfee Vice President of Threat Reseach Dmitri Alperovitch

While we spend billions on new fighter jets, refueling tankers, drones and other robotic fighting machines, there is another war going on that is invisible to all of us.  Dmitri Alperovitch, VP of Threat Research at McAfee Security (not exactly some independent hack blogger) has just posted a spine chilling report about a long-term concerted, concentrated (and apparently, successful) effort to steal vital corporate and government secrets:

“I am convinced that every company in every conceivable industry with significant size and valuable intellectual property and trade secrets has been compromised (or will be shortly), with the great majority of the victims rarely discovering the intrusion or its impact. In fact, I divide the entire set of Fortune Global 2000 firms into two categories: those that know they’ve been compromised and those that don’t yet know.”

He goes on to say:

“the majority of the recent disclosures in the last six months have, in fact, been a result of relatively unsophisticated and opportunistic exploitations for the sake of notoriety by loosely organized political hacktivist groups such as Anonymous and Lulzsec. On the other hand, the targeted compromises — known as ‘Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)’ …[that] we are focused on are much more insidious and occur largely without public disclosures. [Emphasis added] They present a far greater threat to companies and governments, as the adversary is tenaciously persistent in achieving their objectives. The key to these intrusions is that the adversary is motivated by a massive hunger for secrets and intellectual property; this is different from the immediate financial gratification that drives much of cybercrime, another serious but more manageable threat.

And perhaps most disturbing:

What we have witnessed over the past five to six years has been nothing short of a historically unprecedented transfer of wealth — closely guarded national secrets (including from classified government networks), source code, bug databases, email archives, negotiation plans and exploration details for new oil and gas field auctions, document stores, legal contracts, SCADA configurations, design schematics and much more has “fallen off the truck” of numerous, mostly Western companies and disappeared in the ever-growing electronic archives of dogged adversaries. 

Unfortunately, the way our Military-Industrial-Governmental complex works, it will be very difficult to get adequate funding to counter these threats.  And it goes beyond the very real budget issues the US faces.  Frankly, cyber war is invisible.  And that ain’t good.  The M-I-G depends on blowing things upWhy? 

  1. Citizens need to be able to see and feel the threat;
  2. They need to see the results of our troops (or at least, our really cool technologic equipment [drones, robots, etc.]) in action (remember, “Shock & Awe” – better than a Navy Pier fireworks show, eh?); and
  3. Most importantly, when things get ‘blowed up’, they have to be replaced which means the military has to buy more stuff.  For example, a single cruise missile costs approximately $1.2 million dollars.  It is reported that on the first night of the Libyan action, approximately 80 missiles were launched at Tripoli.  80 missiles doesn’t sound like much – but in about 8 hours, our government spent $100 million dollars.  [Come on Tea Partiers – where is your outrage?]

This is a serious stuff…

Who is to Blame for the Tremendous Increase in the U.S. Deficit?

July 27, 2011 Comments off

I have heard a lot of folks (including my own father – bless his Republican soul) blaming our current President as the cause of the huge increase in the deficit.  And yes, the deficit has grown tremendously since Obama took office – but there is a reason.  For right or wrong, the current administration passed a very large stimulus package to attempt to keep our economy from going over the cliff.  Obama also passed an extension of the Bush tax cuts to prevent all of the middle class tax cuts to expire while we were in the deepest recession since the Great Depression.  I don’t think this should be considered profligate spending – because it was very reasoned, purposeful spending.  Now some economists disagree with whether this was the right thing to do, but that does not mean that the spending was done without thought or intention. 

In any event, I found out quite a lot about the cause of the $8.5T increase in the deficit from approximately $5.8T in 2001 to approximately $14.3T today. An article in this morning’s Chicago Sun-Times ( ) outlines specific causes of $6T out of the $8.5T increase.  I have broken that $6T down between George W Bush and Obama as follows:

1. 2001 & 2003 tax cuts: $1.6T
2. Additional interest over that period $1.4T (so let’s give W at least $1T of this)
3. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan $1.3T
4. Medicare prescription drug program $300B
5. 2008 financial corporation bailout $200B
6. Lower tax revenues due to the great recession which began in 2007 to date: hundreds of billions

1. Economic stimulus package 2008: $800B
2. Balance of additional interest per above $400B
3. 2010 tax cut compromise with the Republicans that extended unemployment & payroll tax temp reduction $400B

So let’s do the math on the dollars they identified:
George W – $4.4T
Obama – $1.6T

Even if every single unlisted dollar was due to the current administration (which is an unrealistic assumption), it would still show that more of the deficit was caused by George W.  So, if you hear anyone say “the damage was done by nancy(sic), Harry and Obama” – as someone commented in the WSJ today – make them “show you the money”.  Er, at least, show you the figures.  It is great to hear people run down the current administration as ‘tax and spend’.  Unfortunately, the previous administration was just ‘spend’.

Is The Campaign To Delegitimize Global Warming Really About Melting The Polar Icecaps To Be Able To Drill For Oil?

June 21, 2011 Comments off
Photo credit: dsearls via Flickr/CC BY

For several years, I have been trying to figure out why there has been such a vigorous campaign by the right-wing to discredit Global Warming.  Well, today I found out why.  An Alternet posting on June 7 by Rania Khalek outlined five critical nuggets of information gleaned from the Wikileaks documents that have significant global implications – but which the Main Stream Media have virtually ignored.  The most eye opening for me was evidence that there are potentially some very lucrative side effects to global warming1) The opening up of a tremendous amount of oil and gas resources that are currently unexploitable because they lie beneath the Arctic ice cap, and 2) the very real possibility of having an actual “Northwest Passage” – allowing shipping to move from Europe and Asia to North America over the poles – open up to twelve months per year.  Other reports have indicated that these polar routes may become navigable for a few months as early as next year!

The Alternet report states the following:

WikiLeaks, with impeccable timing, published a new trove of cables highlighting a race to carve up the Arctic for resource exploitation. Nations battling to poison the arctic with oil drilling include Canada, the US, Russia, Norway, Denmark, and perhaps even China, which all have competing claims to the Arctic.  The leaks illustrate a frightening reality, where world leaders are greedily awaiting the opportunity to exploit the oil and natural gas that lie beneath the melting Arctic ice, even arming themselves for possible resource wars…A 2009 cable suggests US paranoia about Russia: ‘Behind Russia’s policy are two potential benefits accruing from global warming, the prospect for an [even seasonally] ice-free shipping route from Europe to Asia, and the estimated oil and gas wealth hidden beneath the Arctic sea floor.'”

The full article can be found here:

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Tomdispatch Presents A Compelling Essay by Lt.Col.(Ret) William Astore About “The Militarization of America”

June 21, 2011 Comments off

TomDispatch, Tom Engelhart’s excellent blog of critical analysis of America’s global political and military activities, published Lt.Col. Astore’s essay which contrasts the founding principles of the United States – the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, and their concerns about the allure of military power – with the casual acceptance of military thinking within the political context in our current society.  His points can be summarized by the following passage:

It’s both sensible and logical to argue that our president and elected representatives must serve as a check on the military establishment, rather than issuing blank checks to them. It’s both sensible and logical to argue that all wars, as required by the Constitution, must have a Congressional declaration before American troops and treasure are committed. It’s both sensible and logical to argue that, as good as our military is, it ultimately can’t win someone else’s civil war (Iraq) or nation-build in a place where the concept of “nation” is little more than notional (Afghanistan).

Sensible and logical, yes, but such arguments have been made — and roundly ignored. They aren’t given the time of day among serious policy types in Washington, where to question the efficacy and legitimacy of the forces and tactics being used is simply not acceptable. Sharing one brain and one ethos means being incapable of grasping one’s own militarized rigidity or truly recognizing the perils that have been unleashed on this nation.”  [Emphasis added]

Obviously, this concept of the unacceptability of questions permeates American politics – on both sides of the aisle.  One’s opponents’ ideas not only aren’t worth the time of day – but they must be shouted down.  That in itself says something very telling about one’s own ideas.  If your ideas are good, you should not only allow them to be questioned – you should encourage the toughest of questions.  The conclusion has to be that those who fear opposing ideas, must have little faith in their own

Sadly, this concept can also be applied to most of the Major American Jewish Organizations who vehemently oppose debate when it comes to the topic of Israel.   The argument is that disagreements will give fuel to the enemies of Israel.  Undoubtedly, there is some truth that opponents of Israel will try to use whatever they can to delegitimize Israel.  But, there is a larger, more dangerous, truth:  lack of debate leads to bad (and in the case of Israel, perhaps fatal) decisions.

The Militarization of America: How the Military Mindset Is Permeating Our Political Culture and Society | | AlterNet.

FDIC Suing WaMu Execs for $900 Million For Gross Negligence – Finally Some Common Sense

March 18, 2011 Comments off
The Mallard, the archetypal "wild duck&qu...

Image via Wikipedia

Wall Street Journal Reports:  FDIC Sues Ex-WaMu Executives

I cotton to the strong form of the Duck Theory (also known as the Duck Test):

  If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck.”

So, I believe that it is clear that the top officials of the banks that got us into the Fukushima of the financial world should be personally held responsible for the crisis.  There was a reason they were being paid the big bucks (big bucks? Let’s call them humongous bucks).  They either knew about the great risks they were taking, or should have known about the risks.  That was why they were being paid so much.  There are not enough of the free-marketiers out there calling for stripping all of the wealth from these folks.  If you listened to some of the hearings the responsibility of these executives was evident.  The one that sticks most in my mind was when the head of mortgage credit control for Citibank testified that he had reported up to his superiors two or three years in a row that 70-80% of the mortgages they were writing did not meet the bank’s own internal credit criteria.  If that isn’t gross negligence, I don’t know what is.

And look, I don’t care if you put these guys/gals (though it seems to be exclusively guys) in jail.  But, please, take their money away.  They gambled with their depositors’ money and lost.  They should not benefit from that.

Categories: Non-Middle East
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