Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Obama will retaliate against Russia for hacks before Trump comes to office, at some risk of Russian cyber retaliation on US power grid

The Obama administration will take retaliatory steps against Russia for the supposedly proven hacks into both political parties, especially Democrats, during the election.  NBC News has a typical story here.

This will include “naming names” (a Randy Shilts idea), and economic sanctions.  Cyber intrusions from the NSA or CIA could lead to Russian cyber attacks on our infrastructure, as suggested in Ted Koppel’s book “Lights Out”.  It's well to remember Sinclair reports that some utilities have malware in power distribution systems planted there in 2012 that they can't remove.

Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law in 2013, seemingly related to its paranoia over population demographics, seems to have been a prelude to aggression in Ukraine, maybe the Baltics, maybe Finland, and certainly support for Assad in Syria.

Yet Donald Trump thinks Putin will be his friend.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Washington Times presents a disturbing picture of terror recruitment in northern Virginia

Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times reports on Dec. 27, that over 2016 nine people from northern Virginia, near the nation’s Capitol, have been arrested for promoting terrorism or trying to support ISIS, link here.   One of the individuals, the oldest, had graduated from West Potomac High School (where I have worked as a substitute teacher) and worked as a Metro police officer.

The article mentions recruiting through "gratuitous" social media, but doesn't get into the use of the Dark Web and apps like Telegram (WSJ story in October).

The article also discusses arrests in Minnesota among the Somali community.

The comments on the article are disturbing, some of them concerned with America’s supposed Christian identity.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

UN vote to condemn settlements on West Bank sounds right to an individualist, but not for the 'tribal" idea of security and "friendship"

The U.S. officially abstained from the U.N. action (allowing the Security Council to pass unaminously)  condemning Israeli settlements on the West Bank, as explained in this CNN story Christmas Eve.  The New York Times carries the story here. Netanyahu has summoned home ambassadors from countries which voted for the risk, which eventually includes the US for abstaining. Ambassador Shapiro will be replaced by Friedman under Trump.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a hawk on national security with whom I often agree, calls for defunding the UN, story .

Lindsey is no fan of Donald Trump, having scorched him in the primary season over the proposed Muslim immigration ban, but Trump iscertainly suggesting he will reverse US policy back for a “friend”. 

I’ve covered the expropriation of property of Palestinian families here before, and there is controversy as to whether Israel is staying within the law and its own “Zone C”.

However, there are many reports to the effect that ordinary Israeli’s sometimes want to move to the settlements for “life style”.  Graham’s idea that having ordinary civilians buffer a supposed enemy is a dangerous one.  The policy is essentially viewing civilians, on both sides, as combatants and that can fuel the idea of targeting civilian non-Muslims in western countries as if they were equally morally guilty (in terms of karma) as “combatants”. 
Wikipedia: By Greater_Jerusalem_May_2006_CIA_remote-sensing_map_.jpg: CIAderivative work: Timeshifter (talk) - Greater_Jerusalem_May_2006_CIA_remote-sensing_map_.jpgThis is a 3500-pixel-wide version of the above-linked original map that is 8,264 × 10,696 pixels, with a file size of 53.3 MB. This 3500-pixel-wide version is 5.54 MB., Public Domain, Link

Update: Dec 28

John Kerry condemns settlements in speech, and Netanuahu replies, NBC story. . Vox has the text of the speech here

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas market investigation in Europe rapping up, but a grim future for European security remians

I won’t belabor the details of the Christmas market truck attack in Berlin, but the very latest story includes the shooting of the prime suspect in Italy and the arrest of three more suspects in Tunisia, CNN story here. Both the original (incorrect) first suspect and then the perpetrator had apparently hidden as “asylum seekers”, later turned down.

There’s no question that Trump can try to make a lot of this as to how asylum seekers will be treated in the U.S.  In "retaliation" ISIS has apparently "published" a list of religious targets in the US, a list which the FBI says is very old and riddled with misspellings and errors.

Michael Birnbaum has a grim front page article in the Washington Post, that for Europe, religious or “resentment” terrorism may be a “fact of life” for decades.

As for internet recruiting, the Washington Post has pointed out  terror groups are using the permissive dark web app “Telegram”) story by Joby Warrick. Young men with petty criminal records and an inability to "get" modern life seem to be particularly drawn to the "brotherhood" of religious cultism.  

Monday, December 19, 2016

Does Poland provide an example of what happens when Populists come to power?

Does Poland provide a window on what can happen when populists come to power?  A front page story in the Washington Post Monday by Anthony Faiola provides a look at the anti-intellectualism  .  Teaching about science and evolution is limited.  Some government support for stay-at-home moms, in a Catholic tradition, happens.  Gay issues are on a back burner (there is no same-sex marriage) although the atmosphere doesn’t seem to be as hostile as in Russia (there was a major vandalism incident though involving a gay community center recently). The most disturbing item in the report seems to be discouragement in some areas against women being on their own, independent of men.

When I did visit Poland, it was described by the State Department as a "moderately developed country" emerging into free markets and capitalism.

Wikipedia attribution link for southern Poland mountains under CCSA 2.5.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Russian hack during election creates threats of future infrastructure and power grid attacks

Many media sources report that Vladimir Putin personally authorized hacks of both Democratic and Republican servers, and deliberately tried to help Trump get elected, partly as a vendetta against Hillary Clinton.  NBC News has a typical report.  President Obama had told Putin in September to “stop it” or there would be consequences. 

But the problem is that could invite counter-attacks from Russia, especially against infrastructure and power grids.  This could provoke a kind of WWIII.

Or it could provoke Putin to become more aggressive in the Baltics, conceivably even Finland.

John McCain is reported to have said that the hacking episode could "destroy democracy" in the US (Time link).  

In the New York Times Sunday, p. 5 (Review section), Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have an op-ed "Is our democracy in danger?"  They write "Past stability is no guarantee of our government's future survival."  That idea could very well provoke an enemy into an even more ambitious terror attack (something like EMP), justifying the doomsday prepper mentality. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Horror in Aleppo

Multiple media sources report the slaughter of civilians in Aleppo today by Assad’s forces in the eastern part of the City, supposedly trying to root out rebels (or ISIS?)

The Guardian has a story on the White Helmets (which is a short film on Netflix) in recent hours, here.
CNN has the latest story on a supposed cease-fire from Russian sources, here.

NBC reports on a report of a cease fire according to rebels after people were burned alive.

Reports of Assad atrocities come from "people who have been credible in the past".

Wikipedia attribution link for White Helmets logo under CCSA 4.0

Friday, December 2, 2016

ISIS fighters could stage bigger attacks in Europe, according to Interpol intel; Mattis is probably a better pick particularly for Trump

Media outlets are reporting disturbing intelligence from Europe that returning ISIS fighter could mount larger attacks, including car bombs, chemical attacks, and personal kidnappings.  NBCNews has a typical story here. Executives, of course, are used to this kind of risk and have extra security, but returning fighters could make a combative political point by going after "ordinary people".  The risk would be much less in the United States (Pulse and Santa Barbara notwithstanding).

Fred Kaplan of Slate has a balanced article on Trump's appointment of Marine Corps general "Mad Dog" Mattis as future Secretary of Defense.  There is criticism that Trump is relying too much on the military for policymaking.  But I think here, Trump needs a general there because Trump has no experience himself with "the draft".  (Well, he got out of it.)  Maddis is actually against torture and believes in following the UCMJ and Geneva Convention by the book.  He also is, relatively speaking, more focused on Iran, Russia and North Korea as opposed just to ISIS when it comes to making priorities.  Trump needs this viewpoint.  He may have a leg up even on homeland security issues like cyberwarfare.