Frenetic Friday Reads: Everything’s a Mess

Frenetic spray painted bird by L7M (street art)

Good Morning!!

It feels as if the world is in a permanent state of chaos, and much–though not all–of the mess can be laid at the feet of Trump and his GOP cult.

For example, if Trump had not impulsively ordered the assassination of Iranian General Soleimani, this would not have happened and 176 people would still be alive. The New York Times: Video Shows Ukrainian Plane Being Hit Over Iran.

Video verified by The New York Times appears to show an Iranian missile hitting a plane near Tehran’s airport, the area where a Ukrainian jet crashed on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board.

As investigators work to determine an official cause of the accident, the video offered new clues about the crash, which came hours after a violent confrontation between Iran and the United States. American and allied officials on Thursday said they believed an Iranian missile had accidentally brought the plane down.

A small explosion occurred when what appears to be a missile hit the plane above Parand, a city near the airport, but the plane did not explode, the video showed. The jet continued flying for several minutes and turned back toward the airport, The Times has determined. The plane, which by then had stopped transmitting its signal, flew toward the airport ablaze before it exploded and crashed quickly, other videos verified by The Times showed.

Joan Miró Danseuse-Créole, 1978

Visual and sonic clues in the footage also matched flight path information and satellite imagery of the area near where the plane crashed. The satellite images were taken on Thursday and provided to The Times by Maxar Technologies, a space technology company.

Trump’s foreign policy is a chaotic disaster, Fareed Zacharia writes at The Washington Post: Trump does not have a foreign policy. He has a series of impulses.

CNBC: Iraqi PM tells US to start working on troop withdrawal.

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister asked the U.S. secretary of state to start working out a road map for an American troop withdrawal from Iraq, his office said Friday, signaling his insistence on ending the U.S. military presence despite recent moves to de-escalate tensions between Iran and the U.S.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi made the request in a telephone call with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday night, his office said in a statement. He also told Pompeo that recent U.S. strikes in Iraq were an unacceptable breach of Iraqi sovereignty and a violation of the two countries’ security agreements.

The Iraqi leader asked Pompeo to “send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism to carry out the parliament’s resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq,” according to the statement.

“The prime minister said American forces had entered Iraq and drones are flying in its airspace without permission from Iraqi authorities and this was a violation of the bilateral agreements,” the statement added.

By Gladys Nilsson

At Vanity Fair, Nick Bilton describes how Iran could hit the U.S. with cyberattacks: “That’s Where Things Really Get Scary”: Gaming Out An Iranian Cyberattack.

While several possible scenarios could manifest from the latest Donald Trump-led global conflict, including everything from things blowing over (unlikely) to World War III (also unlikely, but possible), the skirmish that is most probable, and the one Americans should be most worried about, would take place in cyberspace. The potential for an army of computers to produce deadly results is very real. Power grids could be shut down for days, or weeks, or indefinitely. The stock market could be knocked offline or sent into free fall by hackers. Water supplies could be poisoned; driverless cars could be used like battering rams or to mow down Americans en masse; simple corporate espionage could tank the economy. A tad dramatic? Sure. All very possible scenarios? Absolutely.

The Iranian hornet nest Trump just kicked has been training for a digital skirmish for years, according to a former State Department official I recently spoke with. As the Department of Homeland Security warned in a bulletin on Saturday, “Previous homeland-based plots have included, among other things, scouting and planning against infrastructure targets and cyber enabled attacks against a range of U.S.-based targets.” The agency noted that “Iran maintains a robust cyber program and can execute cyber attacks against the United States. Iran is capable, at a minimum, of carrying out attacks with temporary disruptive effects against critical infrastructure in the United States.”

With these kinds of attacks, the death toll could far outweigh that of typical warfare. As Ambassador Henry Cooper, the former director of the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative and a preeminent expert on missile defenses and space weapons, has said, a successful attack on the American power grids could shut down the “U.S. electric power grid for an indefinite period, leading to the death within a year of up to 90% of all Americans,” or 297 million.

Yikes! Head over to Vanity Fair to read the rest.

Frenetic Lines, by Karine Molloy

Thanks to Trump, Mitch McConnell, and GOP Senators, election security is questionable at best.

The New York Times:  ‘Chaos Is the Point’: Russian Hackers and Trolls Grow Stealthier in 2020.

The National Security Agency and its British counterpart issued an unusual warning in October: The Russians were back and growing stealthier.

Groups linked to Russia’s intelligence agencies, they noted, had recently been uncovered boring into the network of an elite Iranian hacking unit and attacking governments and private companies in the Middle East and Britain — hoping Tehran would be blamed for the havoc.

For federal and state officials charged with readying defenses for the 2020 election, it was a clear message that the next cyberwar was not going to be like the last. The landscape is evolving, and the piggybacking on Iranian networks was an example of what America’s election-security officials and experts face as the United States enters what is shaping up to be an ugly campaign season marred by hacking and disinformation.

American defenses have vastly improved in the four years since Russian hackers and trolls mounted a broad campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election. Facebook is looking for threats it barely knew existed in 2016, such as fake ads paid for in rubles and self-proclaimed Texas secessionists logging in from St. Petersburg. Voting officials are learning about bots, ransomware and other vectors of digital mischief. Military officials are considering whether to embrace information warfare and retaliate against election interference by hacking senior Russian officials and leaking their personal emails or financial information.

Yet interviews with dozens of officials and experts make clear that many of the vulnerabilities exploited by Moscow in 2016 remain.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Wassily kandinsky, Composition VII (1913)

The Washington Post: The Cybersecurity 202: Voting vendors, security pros still far apart on protecting 2020 election.

Voting machine companies and cybersecurity advocates are still miles apart on what it will take to secure 2020 against Russian hackers. 

During a nearly three-hour congressional hearing yesterday, security advocates sounded alarm bells about possible election hacks, warning machines in use today can be easily compromised. Companies, meanwhile, mostly defended the status quo.

At one point, the chief executive of Hart InterCivic, one of three major companies that control more than 80 percent of the voting machine market, even defended selling paperless voting machines that can’t be audited and that top security experts and the Department of Homeland Security have warned are far too vulnerable in an era when elections are being targeted by sophisticated Russian hackers…

The divisions highlighted how, despite three years of surging congressional attention to election security since Russia’s 2016 hacking efforts, there has been almost no government oversight of voting machine makers themselves.

House Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) opened the hearing noting that “there are more federal regulations for ballpoint pens and magic markers than there are for voting systems” — quoting Lawrence Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

David Koloane, Johannesburg

Don’t forget what Trump has done to Puerto Rico. The Washington Post: Hit by devastating earthquakes, Puerto Rico still waiting on billions for hurricane relief.

As Puerto Rico weathers devastating earthquakes, the island is still waiting on more than $18 billion in federal funding that was designated after hurricanes that struck more than two years ago. On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused the Trump administration of acting unlawfully in withholding the money and called on officials to “cease and desist that illegal activity.”

The holdup has continued past a congressionally mandated deadline last fall for more than $8 billion of the aid to be officially announced. As aftershocks continued to shake the U.S. territory after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake Tuesday morning, Democrats sought to refocus attention on the delayed hurricane aid, while questioning whether the federal government will give Puerto Rico what it needs to recover this time.

“I think it puts a considerable burden on the administration to show good faith,” said Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.), pointing to President Trump’s history of criticizing Puerto Rico and moving to slow the disbursement of money. “And in this case, good faith involves not just responding to this latest disaster, but cleaning up from the previous one as well.”

An ongoing dispute over Puerto Rico could also become an issue in the presidential election. Residents of Puerto Rico cannot vote in federal elections, even though they are U.S. citizens, but many live and cast ballots in Florida, a critical swing state.

22 Comments on “Frenetic Friday Reads: Everything’s a Mess”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    • Joanelle says:

      If, indeed he was under pressure from GOP Senators, then they too are guilty of the chaos Trump and his minions created. The GOP party doesn’t resemble in any way shape of form what many of us knew it to be in years past. It’s a real shame what they’ve done to their party.

      • quixote says:

        Yeah. Remember Nixon? They stood for something then.

        (I’m not being facetious! Now we can’t find even three to walk up the hill and tell this orange shambles to get out.)

  2. dakinikat says:

    Wow, that bird painting is amazing and the colors! Beautiful!

    Pelosi is sending the impeachment articles forward and I wonder what will happen next. Probably a Trump Reality show …

  3. bostonboomer says:

    • NW Luna says:

      LOL! Unfortunately it wouldn’t work — You can hold your breath to the point of unconsciousness, but after that breathing will resume, since it’s an automatic process that doesn’t require conscious control.

      This unconscious process is much to the annoyance of angry toddlers who threaten to hold breath forever to ‘punish’ their parents.

  4. bostonboomer says:

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  8. dakinikat says: