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Journal Archives

Germany's Great European Heist


Two mantras guide German thinking about eurozone integration: responsibilities and control must be aligned (so no mutualization of risk without shared jurisdiction); and legacy risks must be settled before any pooling of risks among euro members takes place. Since 2010, these two refrains have shaped the entire discussion of how to shore up the euro, and they largely account for the anemic progress being made on the creation of a European banking union. Germany is ready to embark on a common future, its leaders say, but only if Europe starts from a clean slate.

At first sight, that proposition seems reasonable enough. But to understand its full implications, try applying the same logic to another policy field: security and defense. What if France applied Germany’s approach to eurozone integration to the question of mutualizing defense commitments? What if the French were to insist, as an absolute precondition for further security cooperation, that Germany not only increase its defense budget immediately, but also make good on its accumulated backlog in defense spending from recent decades?

Free Rider?

Germany has not always been a free rider on other people’s defense spending. West Germany was a reliable player in NATO’s Cold War system of burden sharing, and the Bundeswehr in the 1980s was a capable force. For better or worse, it stood in the tradition of German armies since the Kaiserreich. National service was the norm. Defense spending ran at 3% of GDP.

Then came the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Germany embraced the peace dividend with a vengeance. Reductions in Germany’s armed forces and disavowal of weapons of mass destruction were written into the treaties that reunified Germany. But demilitarization also reflected societal shifts. Something in the political culture of the Federal Republic had changed.


A New Keeper of Putin's Secrets

Even before Russian President Vladimir Putin won reelection to another six-year term, there was growing speculation about how he intends to preserve his power and legacy after 2024. But with the nomination of Alexei Kudrin to the government's central budgeting body, Putin's long-term plan seems to be taking shape.


MOSCOW – Since the fall of the Soviet Union, political power within the Kremlin has followed the logic of musical chairs. Factotums surface and then disappear, only to resurface at a later date – all according to the whims of the man in charge. And for most of this century, that man has been Vladimir Putin.

The latest example is Putin’s nomination of former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin to chair the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation. The selection of Kudrin for this role calls to mind former President Boris Yeltsin’s own search for a successor who would preserve his legacy and protect his family and fortune.

Yeltsin had amassed around $15 million while in office, and he ultimately put his trust in Putin – a former KGB man – to protect his children and his money, and to keep him out of prison. Of course, Yeltsin’s boodle now seems rather quaint compared to Putin’s alleged $70 billion in personal wealth, which he has somehow accumulated on an annual Kremlin salary of just ₽8,9 million ($137,000).

After 18 years as either president or prime minister, it is now Putin who needs his legacy and fortune protected.

Beyond personal riches, Putin hopes to preserve the paternalistic ruling system and top-down power structure that he has built up over the past two decades. In 2008, Putin circumvented constitutional consecutive-term limits by having his diminutive, obedient, and easily forgettable deputy prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, keep his seat warm until he could return to the presidency in 2012. A far more competent placeholder would have been Sergei Ivanov, a former KGB general. But Ivanov is much taller than Putin, who, at any rate, had only achieved the rank of colonel. An obvious potential threat to Putin’s power, Ivanov was passed over, and has since been relegated to the role of Russia’s “chief botanist,” overseeing the environment and transportation.


FBI to America: Reboot Your Routers, Right Now There's a sneaky bit of malware going around.


The FBI has issued a dire warning to everyone who has a router in their home. The Internet Crime Complaint Center sent a rare Public Service Announcement declaring: "Foreign cyber actors have compromised hundreds of thousands of home and office routers and other networked devices worldwide."

The hackers are using VPNFilter malware to target small office and home office routers, the FBI said. "VPNFilter is able to render small office and home office routers inoperable," the FBI warns. "The malware can potentially also collect information passing through the router. Detection and analysis of the malware’s network activity is complicated by its use of encryption."

The feds recommends "any owner of small office and home office routers reboot the devices to temporarily disrupt the malware and aid the potential identification of infected devices." They also advise to consider disabling remote management settings on devices, use encryption, upgrade firmer and choose new and different passwords, which is pretty much best practice anyway.

The IC3, formerly known as the Internet Fraud Complaint Center was renamed in October 2003 to include this kind of attack. Their stated mission "is to provide the public with a reliable and convenient reporting mechanism to submit information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning suspected Internet-facilitated criminal activity and to develop effective alliances with law enforcement and industry partners."

Today, that means telling you to reboot your router, so hop to it.


FBI agents take aim at VPNFilter botnet, point finger at Russia, yell 'national security threat'

Feds warn admins malware is rather tough to destroy


The FBI says it is taking steps to stop the spread of the VPNFilter malware and botnet, warning that it's a national security issue.

The bureau's offensive includes seizing a domain believed to have been used as part of the command and control structure for VPNFilter's 500,000-strong network of infected routers and storage devices.

The FBI also made some interesting revelations about the botnet, including confirming that it was being run by the Russian "Sofacy" or "Fancy Bear" group that has previously carried out international hacking campaigns against the US and other countries on behalf of the Russian government.

Just hours before the FBI announced it had seized the command and control domain, researchers with Cisco's Talos security team publicly announced the discovery of the worm they had described as a "concerning" attack that had already spread to more than half a million devices in 54 countries around the world.

The government echoed that concern in its announcement, acknowledging that VPNFilter is already considered to be a national security concern for the US.


General Data Protection Regulation: US news sites unavailable to EU users over data protection rules


A number of high-profile US news websites are temporarily unavailable in Europe after new European Union rules on data protection came into effect. The Chicago Tribune and LA Times were among those posting messages saying they were currently unavailable in most European countries.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) gives EU citizens more rights over how their information is used. The measure is an effort by EU lawmakers to limit tech firms' powers. News sites within the Tronc and Lee Enterprises media publishing groups were affected. Tronc's high-profile sites include the New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Orlando Sentinel and Baltimore Sun.

Its message read: "Unfortunately, our website is currently unavailable in most European countries. We are engaged on the issue and committed to looking at options that support our full range of digital offerings to the EU market."

Lee Enterprises publishes 46 daily newspapers across 21 states.

Its statement read: "We're sorry. This site is temporarily unavailable. We recognise you are attempting to access this website from a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) including the EU which enforces the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and therefore cannot grant you access at this time."


The gulf between the US and the EU will only grow further over this. I am already getting blocking messages.

A Rotten Corporate Culture (Carillion)


Reports by select committees of MPs after some scandal should be treated with care. There is nothing MPs like more than to take the moral high ground and heap blame on others in front of TV cameras, whether their victims deserve it or not. But in the case of the collapse of Carillion, their condemnation of the senior management, the board and the auditor seem fully justified. When the Institute of Directors say that “effective governance was lacking at Carillion” you know things were very wrong.

Think of the company as a ship. The captain has steered the ship too close to the rocks, and seeing the impending disaster has flown off in the ship’s helicopter and with all the cash he could find. After the boat hit the rocks no lives were lost, but many of the passengers had a terrifying ordeal in the water and many lost possessions, and the crew lost their jobs. Now if this had happened to a real ship you would expect the captain to be in jail stripped of any ill gotten gains. But because this ship is a corporation its captains are free and keep all their salary and bonuses. The Board and auditors which should have done something to correct the ship’s disastrous course also suffer no loss.

To say this reflects everything that is wrong with neoliberalism is I think too imprecise. I also think focusing on the fact that Carillion was a company built around public sector contracts misses the point (I discussed this aspect in an earlier post). To say, as the MPs do, that the collapse of Carillion is the result of recklessness, hubris and greed tells us nothing, because many people are bound to be those things if the system provides no incentives for better behaviour. The problem is that the senior managers, the auditors and the Board are not in prison and have not even suffered any financial loss.

In theory the incentive for better behaviour is that everyone except the auditors have lost their job and are unlikely to get another. But executive salaries are now so high that this penalty, if it is applied, is just not strong enough. The former chief executive, who resigned in 2017, earned £1.5m in 2016. (A third of that was in the form of a bonus that could have been clawed back until the remuneration committee made that more difficult in 2016.) Few people would think that never being able to captain a ship again was a sufficient disincentive for the imaginary captain who steered his boat too close to the rocks.


New York Times - How the Mueller Investigation Could Play Out for Trump

Of all the questions hanging over the special counsel investigation, one stands out: How will President Trump fare in the end?


An indictment is one possibility that has grown increasingly unlikely. The office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has told the president's lawyers that it plans to abide by the Justice Department’s view that sitting presidents cannot be indicted no matter what the evidence shows. Still, if Mr. Mueller finds wrongdoing, Mr. Trump could be indicted after he leaves office.

But for now, there are several other potential outcomes while Mr. Trump is president. The New York Times spoke to defense lawyers, legal experts and former Justice Department officials to determine how the Mueller investigation may play out for Mr. Trump. The Times explored the likeliest outcomes in this little-tested area of the law; some have nearly endless permutations that are not covered here.

The notion that Mr. Mueller will write an expansive report of his findings has gained a foothold and harks back to the book-length report that Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton, submitted directly to Congress, along with supporting evidence he deemed relevant.

But the law has changed since Mr. Starr’s investigation. Mr. Mueller is required instead to submit a confidential report to Mr. Rosenstein explaining his decisions to prosecute or not. Mr. Rosenstein does not have to turn that report over to Congress; he only has to notify lawmakers that the investigation has ended.


much more at the link

Fake News And The Fairness Doctrine

Fake news in America’s public square is a failure of its information marketplace. Remediation should occur through enhanced marketplace competition, not government censorship.


I have argued that the quality of democracy is lower in America than in much of Europe. It lacks co-determination, for instance, which is why US wages stagnate even as inflation-adjusted wages in northern Europe have risen steadily for decades to leapfrog American ones. More broadly, the preferences of Americans are less reflected in public policies than in Europe, feeding discontent with US democracy. Americans have less confidence than Europeans in their legislative and judicial institutions. Fewer than half of Americans believe it’s “absolutely important to live in a democracy;” the share rejecting democracy is more than double that in Northern Europe. And one-third of Americans have come of late to support “a strong leader who doesn’t bother with Congress or elections.”

America’s pay-to-play politics and unrepresentative electoral system are causal factors (conservatives mock reformers as “simplistic” majoritarians). But equally important is the failure of its information marketplace, awash with fake news.

Enlightenment And Censorship

The age of enlightenment informed by the Inquisition and censorship victims such as Socrates, Joan of Arc, Galileo, and Thomas More energetically embraced free speech. Its clarion call was John Milton’s 1644 Areopagitica speech to Parliament. Milton has been restated famously in Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ 1919 opinion (Abrams v. United States) rejecting censorship unless speech “so imminently threatens immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.” Censorship is unwarranted, argued Holmes, except in extremis because fables typically fade in the marketplace of ideas: “the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.”

Enthusiasm for Milton’s desideratum by America’s constitutional fathers was tempered by failure of what we today would term Holmes’ information marketplace. In the wake of Shay’s Rebellion in 1787, for instance, Elbridge Gerry lamented the dissemination of fake news in the new nation by “pretend patriots … (voters) misled into the most baneful measures and opinions, by the false reports circulated by designing men.” And James Madison considered the “artful misrepresentations by interested men” an existential threat to the new nation, warning ominously (with sobering contemporary relevance), “a popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy.”

Even so, the censorship regime that has evolved in America is more permissive than in Europe where hate speech – informed by the 20th century abuse of free speech by Nazis and other home-grown fascists – is criminalized. The deaths of 80 million will bring that. Reflected in the European Convention of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and supported by the European Court of Human Rights, European nations (and Canada) temper speech. For instance, the ECHR is obligated “to sanction or even prevent all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance ….” In contrast to the open display of Nazi paraphernalia in Charlottesville, for example, France prohibits its sale while Germany bans Nazi emulators and would jail neo-Nazi marchers that the US Supreme Court embraced in its decision National Socialist Party of America vs. Village of Skokie (1977).


Colin Allred beats Lillian Salerno for chance to unseat incumbent Republican Pete Sessions

I think he can take that Trumper bootlicker OUT!


Dallas lawyer Colin Allred, the Hillcrest High School football standout who made it to the NFL before becoming a civil rights lawyer, easily outpaced Lillian Salerno to win the Democratic nomination for the 32nd Congressional District. Allred, 35, will challenge longtime incumbent Republican Pete Sessions in November, a contest that's expected to be one of the most costliest and competitive House races in the nation.

"This community got involved in our campaign and I'm so grateful," Allred said Tuesday. "Through their door-knocking, block walking and neighbor-to-neighbor contact, they helped us spread our message and they are going to help us beat Pete Sessions in November."

Sessions, who cruised to victory in the March 6 primary, did not comment on Allred's victory. Local Democrats are hoping Allred, largely unknown in political circles before this race, can be a champion with the ability and resources to knock off Sessions, who has been in Congress since 1997 and represented District 32 since 2003.

In 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton narrowly won the district over Republican Donald Trump, who went on to become president. Sessions, who was unopposed, won re-election and pulled in more votes than Clinton.



video of his victory speech

Dem Super PAC Spending To Elevate GOP Hardliner In California House Race (Partly b/c Our Revolution)


House Democrats’ main super PAC is quietly attempting to boost a hardline Republican candidate in a key House race, the latest attempt by national Democrats to avoid disaster in California.

The House Majority PAC has sent out mail pieces to Republican and independent voters in retiring Rep. Ed Royce’s (R-CA) district tying Phil Liberatore to President Trump, a clear move to raise the underfunded Liberatore’s name recognition in the district and try to siphon off votes from other GOP candidates to him. Images of the mail pieces were obtained by TPM from a source in-district.

The mailers advertise that Liberatore and Trump “want a bigger border wall,” oppose sanctuary cities (a major flashpoint in California, where Republicans are outraged Democratic lawmakers have declared it a sanctuary state), and tout his endorsement from controversial former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R), a hero on the anti-immigrant right. While the ad is framed as an attack, it’s clear the goal is to boost him at other Republicans’ expense.

The effort is just one of many efforts from Democrats to avoid the disastrous scenario of failing to get a single candidate into the general election in a state where they have a number of key pickup opportunities.


the ratfucking by Our Revolution:



A few weeks ago, the DCCC jumped in to back Navy veteran and lottery winner Gil Cisneros (D) in the race for the open seat to replace retiring Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA). The move drew howls from Cisneros’ opponents, the loudest of them from businessman Andy Thorburn (D) and the progressive organizations backing him like the Bernie Sanders-affiliated Our Revolution and the California Nurses Association.

That endorsement could come back to bite them, as a local Democratic official who’s backing Thorburn accused the married Cisneros of drunkenly trying to seduce her then withholding a campaign donationa charge Cisneros and his allies strongly deny. Others told TPM Cisneros wasn’t drunk that night — including local Fox News reporter Jamie Chambers, who said he talked to Cisneros around the time of the alleged encounter and that he was “sober, clear, and lucid.”

Pushing one candidate over others isn’t their only option.

Party leaders have quietly worked on second-tier candidates for months to drop out to help the remaining Democrats consolidate the vote. And a few have done so – including Rachel Payne, who recently dropped her bid for the Rohrabacher seat. But others, like EMILY’s List-backed Mai Khanh Tran in Royce’s district, have told them to stuff it.


The Intercept gets involved too

California Democrat threatens legal action over ‘fabricated voice mail’


Two Democrats in a blue-trending California congressional district locked horns Friday over a short piece of audio — a voice mail that candidate Andy Thorburn claims candidate Gil Cisneros left on his wife’s phone. By the end of Friday, the dust-up had led to legal action, accusations of fraud and one candidate comparing the other to President Trump.

The voice mail, first reported by the Intercept, is just a few seconds long. In it, a man identifies himself as Cisneros, a candidate in California’s 39th Congressional District, and informs Thorburn that “I’m gonna go negative on you.”

The Intercept, which has been closely covering brawls in Democratic primaries, reported on the voice mail Thursday afternoon. On Friday morning, Cisneros’s campaign released the cease-and-desist letter it had sent to the Intercept, claiming that the story was “false and defamatory” and further claiming that the audio had been faked.

“The voice on that recording is not Gil Cisneros, plain and simple,” said Cisneros spokesman Orrin Evans. “The Intercept’s ‘story’ about a voice mail — apparently provided to them by the Thorburn campaign — is completely false and manufactured. The Intercept posted the fabricated voice mail without even playing the recording for the Cisneros campaign to verify his voice, and took no steps to authenticate the recording prior to its release.”


so SICK of these fucking dirty tricks from OR

they attacked an Indian American candidate (who won his primary tonight) as well

Kulkarni's teen drug arrest puts Fort Bend Democrats on edge



Nevertheless, the allegation, made at the start of early voting in Texas, has shaken up a U.S. House race in which Democrats hope to make inroads in their quest to loosen the Republican Party's long grip on the state.

Kulkarni disclosed the arrest to the Chronicle on Tuesday after the case was raised by the Fort Bend County Chapter leader of Our Revolution, a group representing a progressive coalition of activists who supported the 2016 presidential campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Doug Beaton, the leader of the chapter, warned Fort Bend County Democratic officials on Kulkarni's previously undisclosed past in a letter posted Monday on social media.
The letter suggested that Kulkarni, whose full first name is Srivinas, is running under an assumed name and that he had previously registered with the Federal Election Commission to run for a congressional seat in Massachusetts.

"As these concerns have been validated, we feel that this candidate would be a considerable liability for the Democratic Party in the midterm elections," Beaton wrote.

Kulkarni said neither charge is true.



Re: Housewife and Gendarme France's New Reservists


Two years after the terrorist attacks which hit Paris in 2015 France is still in a state of emergency. With a shortage of military and police, civilians have been invited to fill in the shortfall. But will this army of volunteers really make France safer?

(31 min)
Available from 10/05/2018 to 25/05/2018
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