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Ghost Dog

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Hometown: Canary Islands Archipelago
Home country: Spain
Member since: Wed Apr 19, 2006, 01:59 PM
Number of posts: 15,433

About Me

Brit gone native. Cooperative member. Ecology. Cartography. Programming. Music production.

Journal Archives

An American empire rendered reckless as its hegemony disintegrates

The following is a comment made this morning at the Guardian:

tempestteacup  Thestinger

Trump is merely the latest, most corrupt iteration of problems that long predated his successful exploitation of the political system for personal profit.

For understandable reasons, the problems that have received greatest attention are those that most directly impact the lives of voters: education, healthcare, social security, police oppression, a capitalist system in crisis. Bernie Sanders, for example, made a clear strategic decision to avoid serious engagement with American foreign policy. Looking to Britain or France and the media's treatment of Jeremy Corbyn and Jean-Luc Melenchon, perhaps he perceived that it is in this area that the establishment is most unanimous and therefore most likely to mobilise against anything that challenges their dogma.

(Even then, however, Bernie was on the receiving end of significant bile - he was criticised for being "soft" on America's most enduring boogeyman, Fidel Castro, as well as being forced to explain fake news reports that he had honeymooned in the Soviet Union.)

This is, in my opinion, a mistake. The increasingly dangerous positions adopted in foreign affairs by an American empire rendered reckless as its hegemony disintegrates, along with the inherent concern when any area of policy is subject to virtually no criticism or serious dissent is becoming obvious. The entanglement of corporate interests with defence spending, and therefore the ways America conducts itself abroad, have turned over the most deadly military power in the world to those whose aims are inimical to those of the nation's citizens. The long-term erosion of accountability and oversight that went into overdrive under George Bush Jnr and were institutionalised under Obama. Thus, despite overwhelming evidence that their policies do more to produce instability than contain it, they are subject to increasingly weak opposition.

From Syria to the Baltic, American-Russian relations are at their worst for a generation. NATO expansion is cheered on in the media while its consequences are completely unacknowledged. Aggression has become a default mode; disregard for long-term planning a sign of patriotism. And criticism is treated as a form of treason by everyone from the Trump Administration to the corporate leaders of the Democratic Party, all ably abetted by their stenographers in the press.

Trump's lack of grace or etiquette, along with his Bannon-inflected nationalism, may have repulsed the Washington DC establishment and their permanent state of war fever. But they've clearly brought him to heel with the help of war criminals (Fallujah, Afghan special operations) HR McMaster and Mad Dog Mattis. He, like Obama before him, has been taught, by flattery and intimidation, not to challenge the imperatives of American imperialism, to speak with the forked tongue of the world's policeman, and to bask in the praise it elicits from a media as corrupt as the state-controlled press under any one-party rule.

So there we have it. You may have noticed that in America's current bout of jingoism, the one thing almost totally absent has been any interest whatsoever in the wishes of American citizens. Do they want to bleed the federal budget dry in the pursuit of endless war while an axe is taken to every other aspect of government spending? Do they want to see their leaders wreak death and destruction on far-flung nations? Do they believe that American foreign policy should be at the behest of corporate interests and profit-seeking?

Nobody seems interested in asking, just in hectoring and conflating patriotism with the fetishising of a military that has been controlled, for decades, by warlords as bloodthirsty, as venal and as stupid as any that brought the empires of Rome or Byzantium to the point of collapse.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/24/north-korea-wont-bow-donald-trumps-threats-needs-assurances


Accurate, imo.

Defend Gibraltar? Better condemn it as a dodgy tax haven

In 1999, Vladimir Putin was angling to become president, a complex task considering the amount of money and violence in Russian politics at the time. He needed to talk to all the players and needed to do so somewhere unobtrusive, so he convened a meeting at an oligarch’s Mediterranean villa. This, however, caused a problem: how could he travel to southern Spain without alerting the Spanish, who might monitor the conversations and learn what was going on?

Fortunately, there was a solution: Gibraltar. The then-FSB chief flew into the British territory, hopped on a boat and entered Spain illegally, on perhaps as many as five occasions. Russian spooks are not the only thing Gibraltar has smuggled across the border. According to media reports quoting a confidential EU investigation, the Rock imported 117m packets of cigarettes in 2013, enough for every Gibraltarian to smoke almost 200 a day. The cigarettes didn’t stay there, however; they, like Putin, were passing through. This epic smuggling operation may have cost EU countries €700m in lost tax revenues over four years.

Britain’s response to Spain’s demand that it have a say over how Brexit affects Gibraltar has been one of almost universal fury, but it shouldn’t have been. If you imagine that, owing to some ancient treaty, Spain had a base in Dover, from which Russia’s chief spy had repeatedly sneaked into Kent, and smugglers had flooded the country with cheap fags, massively undermining our tax base, we would be pretty cross, too. It’s something of a wonder that Spain has put up with it for so long.

Gibraltar hasn’t always been this way. It used to be a naval garrison blockaded by Spain and with almost no links to its neighbours at all. Naval spending made up almost two-thirds of Gibraltar’s economy in the 1980s, but the money dried up with the end of the cold war and the Rock had to diversify. Like most of the other remaining British colonies, it did so by aggressively undercutting the rules and taxes of its neighbours. In time, it found a comfortable niche enabling business projects that were too dodgy for Jersey or the Isle of Man...

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/08/defend-gibraltar-condemn-it-as-dodgy-tax-haven

Israel sunk in 'incremental tyranny', say former Shin Bet chiefs

... Ami Ayalon and Carmi Gillon were speaking ahead of a public meeting at a Jerusalem gallery which is threatened with closure for hosting a meeting organised by the military whistleblowing group Breaking the Silence, one of the main targets of the rightwing government of Benjamin Netanyahu...

..."Incremental tyranny (is a process) which means you live in a democracy and suddenly you understand it is not a democracy any more,” Ayalon told a small group of journalists, including the Guardian, ahead of the event. “This is what we are seeing in Israel. The tragedy of this process is that you only know it when it is too late.”

Ayalon cited recent moves by ministers in the Netanyahu government to change the laws to hit groups such as Breaking the Silence by banning them from events in schools and targeting their funding, while also taking aim at the country’s supreme court and independence of the media. Issues of freedom of speech and expression have become one of the key faultlines in Israeli society – in everything from the arts to journalism – under the most rightwing government in the country’s history...

... “This country was established on the values of liberal democracy, values written in the only kind of constitution we have – which is our declaration of independence – values we don’t fulfil any more. You can analyse what happened to us in the last 50 years, but everything is under the shade of occupation. It has changed us (as) a society. It has made us an unpleasant society.”...

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/06/former-israeli-security-chiefs-warn-of-tyranny

Can England avoid a meltdown of national identity? (Paul Mason)

Scotland can, should and hopefully will leave the United Kingdom. The question for non-Scottish Brits now is, if we are going to say goodbye to the union, how should we frame our own national consciousness after that? What institutions should we design?

The original argument for independence was strong: Scotland has developed a national culture and consciousness on a different trajectory to that of England. Large numbers of its people are convinced their economic interest is harmed within the current structure of devolution. With a hard Brexit, all forms of devolution seem an inadequate protection from the bomb that is about to go off.

Theresa May’s determination to pursue hard Brexit is the equivalent of stepping off a 10-metre diving board without checking there is any water in the pool below. But a no-deal Brexit will not only trigger severe economic dislocation. It will trigger an ideological crisis of all the nationalisms in the UK. English nationalism – half-formed, turbulent and untheorised at the moment it defeated Ed Miliband and then delivered Brexit – will be forced to become concrete. Leaping off the diving board handcuffed to May will be bad enough; leaping handcuffed to a people having a national identity meltdown is definitely something to avoid...

... But if Scotland leaves – and Northern Ireland is given some kind of halfway status to prevent a border being re-erected with the Republic – then what’s left cannot be called “rUK” – the rump or remainder UK. It will be England-Plus. This new country will still be a major global economy, a nuclear power (albeit in need of a new port for its nuclear-armed submarines), a permanent member of the UN Security Council and home to the head of the Commonwealth. And it will need an ideology...

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/20/can-england-avoid-a-meltdown-of-national-identity

Brexit is about to get real. Yet we are nowhere near ready

... It’s as if the crew of the Titanic eyed the iceberg ahead and promptly decided to have a big squabble over whether to serve white or red.

This failure to wrestle with what’s coming goes wider. The public conversation since 23 June 2016 has barely differed from the debate before that date, each side – leave and remain – still refighting the EU referendum campaign, uncertain how to get out of the old groove.

That failing is most obvious among the Brexiteers, characterised by a refusal to own their victory and take responsibility for it. So when a voice of experience or authority dares point out the possible dangers ahead, they are either sacked, as was the fate of Michael Heseltine, attacked personally, like John Major, or else branded an “enemy of the people” who refuses to bow to the “popular will”.

Those with concerns are accused of “talking down the country” or lacking sufficient faith – as if, should Brexit make us poorer, the fault will belong to those who didn’t screw their eyes tight enough and believe. Credit to Jonn Elledge for calling this what it is: the Tinkerbell delusion...

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/10/brexit-real-triggering-article-50

Argentina's rising grains production strands vessels in river traffic

"... Increasing congestion on the Parana, which carries 80 percent of Argentina's grains exports, could hamper President Mauricio Macri's efforts to expand farm output and pull the country out of recession.

Macri wants Argentina to grow 25 percent more grains to boost rural income and has cut export taxes to attract more investment in the sector. But to haul all that grain to market, Macri needs the log jams on the river to end.

The government is studying how to accommodate the growing flotilla plying the waterway without driving up shipping costs - which could cancel out the benefits of the export tax cut to farmers and agricultural businesses.

"The entire river system is at its current limit," said Koen Robijns, Argentine operations manager for Jan De Nul, the privately-owned, Luxemburg-based company that operates the Parana and is responsible for dredging..."

http://reuters.com/article/idUSKBN15V0HM?il=0

Non-partisan ICT thinktank on hacking techniques

(& Neo-McCarthyism - "McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence." - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCarthyism )


Malicious actors can easily position their breach to be attributed to Russia.  It’s common knowledge among even script kiddies that all one needs to do is compromise a system geolocated in Russia (ideally in a government office) and use it as a beachhead for attack so that indicators of compromise lead back to Russia. For additional operational security, use publically available whitepapers and reports to determine the tool, techniques, and procedures of a well-known nation-state sponsored advanced persistent threat (APT), access Deep Web forums such as Alphabay to acquire a malware variant or exploit kit utilized in prolific attacks, and then employ the malware in new campaigns that will inevitably be attributed to foreign intelligence operations. Want to add another layer? Compromise a Chinese system, leap-frog onto a hacked Russian machine, and then run the attack from China to Russia to any country on the globe. Want to increase geopolitical tensions, distract the global news cycle, or cause a subtle, but exploitable shift in national positions? Hack a machine in North Korea and use it to hack the aforementioned machine in China, before compromising the Russian system and launching global attacks. This process is so common and simple that’s its virtually “Script Kiddie 101” among malicious cyber upstarts.

***

Incident Response techniques and processes are not comprehensive or holistic enough to definitively attribute an incident to a specific threat actor from the multitude of script kiddies, hacktivists, lone-wolf threat actors, cyber-criminals, cyber-jihadists, hail-mary threats, and nation-state sponsored advanced persistent threats (APTs), who all possess the means, motive, and opportunity, to attack minimally secured, high profile targets.

***

Attribution might be reliable if the target is well-protected, if the target operates in a niche field, or if the malware involved in the incident is unique because one or more of those characteristics can be deterministic of the sophistication and resources of the threat actor. Attribution is less exact in the case of the DNC breach because the mail servers compromised were not well-secured; the organization of a few hundred personnel did not practice proper cyber-hygiene; the DNC has a global reputation and is a valuable target to script kiddies, hacktivists, lone-wolf cyber-threat actors, cyber-criminals, cyber-jihadists, hail-mary threats, and nation-state sponsored advanced persistent threats (APTs); and because the malware discovered on DNC systems were well-known, publicly disclosed, and variants could be purchased on Deep Web markets and forums.

***

Both APT28 and APT29 are well-known sophisticated threat actors that have been extensively profiled by cybersecurity firms such as FireEye. As a result, their profiles, operational behavior, tools, and malware could all be easily emulated by even an unsophisticated adversary in a campaign against an insecure target such as the DNC, that did not prioritize cybersecurity, cyber-hygiene, or system cyber resiliency. For instance, the cyber-criminal group Patchwork Elephant, known for adopting malware from other campaigns, could easily have also conducted the DNC/ RNC attacks by emulating APT28 and APT29...

http://icitech.org/its-the-russians-or-is-it-cold-war-rhetoric-in-the-digital-age/


About icitech.org: http://icitech.org/mission-values/

Regarding the politicisation of the BBC:

Ex-editor of The Economist Bill Emmott, a well-known and vociferous elite-class lefty and pro-European journalist, was appointed to head the Ofcom content board, which will oversee the BBC’s editorial standards from next spring, and then summarily dismissed after publishing some lefty pro-European articles...


... The affair does seem to reveal startling ineptitude by Hodgson – who hired someone to run the content board because he was a journalist and then forced him out when she discovered he was, er, a journalist. Is she up to the task of invigilating the BBC, especially given her own past as a corporation executive? Or of standing up to the secretary of state? The DCMS select committee will now surely have to investigate further.

In a letter to MPs on the committee two weeks ago, Emmott also drew attention to the political balance of the main Ofcom board, soon to be responsible for the BBC. Since he has been evicted (by a Conservative minister), three of the six non-exec directors “have associations with the Conservative Party”.

One is Tory peer Baroness Noakes, who in the run-up to last year’s election was writing tweets such as “Be very afraid if @Ed_Miliband and #Labour get back into power” and “Must not let Labour back to destroy progress”. After protests, Ofcom conceded that some of the comments were “not appropriate” – but she remains an Ofcom director, and indeed its deputy chair.

“Board members are able to express their opinions publicly on a range of matters,” a spokesman explained at the time, adding that Ofcom “is independent of government… All its decisions are free from political influence”. Karen Bradley may agree, but does anyone else believe a word of it?

http://www.private-eye.co.uk/issue-1433/media-news

New Refuge for Mega Rich

... “You can run multinational corporations from paradise now. So why wouldn’t you?”...

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-02/the-rich-have-found-a-place-to-escape-the-horrors-of-the-world
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