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TREASON’S GREETINGS: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 18, 2021 at 12:07 am

“U.S. democracy wasn’t set up to deal with a president openly behaving like a James Bond villain while being protected by a political party behaving more like a mafia than a civic institution.”  
—The Washington Monthly 

TRUMP’S ULTIMATE TREASON

On January 6, the United States Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding, would certify states’ Electoral College results of the 2020 election. 

That morning, President Donald Trump urged Pence to flip the results of the election to give him a win.

Pence replied that he was not authorized by the Constitution to overturn those results.

But as Pence went off to the Capitol Building housing the Senate and House of Representatives, Trump had one last card to play.

Mike Pence - Wikipedia

Mike Pence

For weeks, Trump had ordered his legions of Right-wing Stormtrumpers to descend on Washington, D.C. on January 6. 

On December 20, he had tweeted: “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” 

In tweets, he promoted the rally again on December 27 and 30, and January 1.

On January 6, Trump appeared at the Ellipse, a 52-acre park south of the White House fence and north of Constitution Avenue and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

A stage had been set up for him to address tens of thousands of his supporters, who eagerly awaited him.  

Trump ordered them to march on the Capitol building to express their anger at the voting process and to intimidate their elected officials to reject the results. 

Melania Trump 'disappointed' by Trump supporters' Capitol riot - ABC7 Chicago

Donald Trump addresses his Stormtrumpers 

“Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore, and that is what this is all about. And to use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal….

“Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back….And we’re going to have to fight much harder….

“And after this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol. And we’re going to cheer on our brave Senators and Congressmen and women and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them.

“Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated.”

The Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol—and quickly brushed aside Capitol Police, who made little effort to arrest or shoot them.

Image result for Images of hangman's noose outside Capitol Building riot

The “Jolly Roger” meets Donald Trump

  • Members of the mob attacked police with chemical agents, metal poles and lead pipes.
  • Injuries suffered by almost 140 officers included concussions, broken ribs, smashed spinal discs, a lost eye.
  • Several rioters carried plastic handcuffs, possibly intending to take hostages. Others carried walkie-talkies.
  • Senators ran down a flight of stairs and along a hallway as police held off rioters.

These are some of the high-profile figures who were seen storming the US Capitol

Stormtrumpers scaling Capitol Building walls

  • Many of the lawmakers’ offices were occupied and vandalized—including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a favorite Right-wing target.  
  • Insurrectionists shouted “Hang Pence!” for his refusal to block certification of Biden’s victory.
  • Others yelled, “Where are you, Nancy [Pelosi]?” 
  • Lawmakers huddled under desks and behind locked doors, expecting to die any minute.

Trump to Pardon 'Patriots' Involved in Capitol Attack? Truth About WH Pardons Attorney Seeking Names in Viral Post

Stormtrumpers inside the Capitol Building

More than three hours passed before police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retook control of the Capitol. 

And Trump? After giving his inflammatory speech, he returned to the White House—to watch his handiwork on television. He initially rebuffed requests to mobilize the National Guard.

This required intervention by Pat A. Cipollone, the White House Counsel, among other officials. 

Told that Secret Service agents had spirited Pence off the floor of the Senate following the attack, Trump tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) frantically called Trump, begging him to call off the rioters.

“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” replied Trump.

While the rioting was still erupting, Trump posted a video on Twitter: I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us….But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order….So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”

THE TREASONOUS LEGACY OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY

The conscience of Rod Serling still speaks to us.

And we need only watch his “Twilight Zone” episode, “Death’s Head Revisited,” to fully understand how Republicans react when they are confronted with overwhelming evidence of their evil. 

In that episode, a former Nazi concentration camp captain returns to Dachau, to savor the torments he once inflicted on helpless men and women. To his horror, he’s greeted by the ghosts of those victims.

To one of them—Becker—he says: “That was such a long time ago. Let’s forget about all that–unpleasantness—and move on.” 

That is how Republicans have reacted when confronted with overwhelming evidence that President Donald J. Trump, having lost the 2020 Presidential election, incited violence against the Government of the United States. 

And just as most of the Original Nazis were forced to confront their past “unpleasantness”—and punished for it—so, too, must Republicans be forced to confront—and punished for—their own.

Image result for Images of Twilight Zone episode "Death's Head Revisited"

A former tormentor—and his former tormented victim—confront each other in “Death’s Head Revisited”

TREASON’S GREETINGS: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 17, 2021 at 12:05 am

TRUMP’S FINAL SCHEMES TO REMAIN IN POWER

Throughout November and December, 2020, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. None were supported by evidence of fraud—as even Trump’s lawyers admitted when questioned by judges.  

In Michigan, Trump’s attorneys dropped their federal suit to block the certification of Detroit-area ballots.

By November 21, more than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

Ultimately, from November 3 to December 14, Trump and his allies lost 59 times in court, either withdrawing cases or having them dismissed by Federal and state judges.

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Donald Trump

On November 19, losing in the courts, Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House. The reason: To persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

The Michigan legislators said they would follow the law.

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session and convince state legislators to select their own electors that would support him, thus overturning Biden’s win.

Kemp refused, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

On December 8, the Supreme Court refused to hear Trump’s bid to reverse Pennsylvania’s certification of Biden’s victory. Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA), a Trump ally, argued that the state’s 2.5 million mail-in votes were unconstitutional.

The Court’s order read, “The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice [Samuel] Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied.”

Although Trump had appointed three of the Court’s Justices, not one of them dissented.

On December 10, the Supreme Court refused to let a Texas lawsuit overturn the results in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

The majority of their votes—cast for Biden—were critical to Trump’s defeat.

“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections,” the court said without further comment. It dismissed all other related claims as moot.

The request for their overturning came in a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. A Trump ally, Paxton has been indicted on felony securities fraud charges. He have been seeking a Presidential pardon as reward for his effort.

Seventeen Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members of Congress—supported the lawsuit. They feared Trump’s fanatical base would “primary” them if they didn’t publicly declare their loyalty—to a man they knew was slated to leave office within two months.

Had the Court acted on Paxton’s request, the results for democracy would have been catastrophic. 

“Texas seeks to invalidate elections in four states for yielding results with which it disagrees,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the justices in legal papers. “Its request for this court to exercise its original jurisdiction and then anoint Texas’s preferred candidate for president is legally indefensible and is an affront to principles of constitutional democracy.”

Meanwhile, top Republicans—such as Vice President Mike Pence, Missouri United States Senator Roy Blunt and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—refused to congratulate Biden as the winner. 

Mitch McConnell portrait 2016.jpg

Mitch McConnell

In fact, the vast majority of House and Senate Republicans refused to publicly acknowledge Biden as President-Elect of the United States.  The reason: They were still in thrall to Trump’s fanatical base. 

They feared that if they broke with the soon-to-be-ex-President, they would be voted out of office at the next election—and lose their cozy positions and the power and perks that come with them.

Then, on December 30,  Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley announced that, on January 6, 2021, he would object to the certification of some states’ Electoral College results. As many as 140 House Republicans and 25 from the Senate were expected to join him. 

This would have forced Republicans to:

  1. Vote to reject Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud; or
  2.  Disenfranchise millions of voters who had voted for Biden.

“Josh Hawley and anyone who supports his effort are engaged in the attempted overthrow of democracy,” Democratic Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy said.

“There is no evidence that there was any fraud. Senator Hawley apparently believes that if a Democrat wins the presidential race, it must be illegitimate by definition, even absent any actual evidence of misbehavior.”

Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse bluntly offered the reason for this effort: ‘”We have a bunch of ambitious politicians who think there’s a quick way to tap into the president’s populist base without doing any real, long-term damage. But they’re wrong—and this issue is bigger than anyone’s personal ambitions.” 

Having lost in 59 court cases to overturn the election results, Trump opted for some old-fashioned arm-twisting.   

On January 2, 2021,  Trump called the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The reason: To pressure him to “find” enough votes to overturn former Vice President Joe Biden’s win in the state’s presidential election.

“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state,” Trump lied.

He even threatened Raffensperger with criminal prosecuted if he did not change the vote count in Trump’s favor: That’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen.”  

TREASON’S GREETINGS: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 16, 2021 at 12:23 am

PREVENTING TREASON IN 2020

Donald Trump didn’t win a majority of the popular vote in 2016—but he got enough help from Russian dictator Vladimir Putin to put him over the top in the Electoral College.

And Trump gladly reciprocated.

On July 16, 2018, Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Putin.

There he blamed American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—instead of Putin for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election: “I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

In early 2020, SEAL Team Six raided a Taliban outpost and recovered $500,000 in American cash. The CIA believed that Putin had offered money to Taliban militants to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. Trump—who received Intelligence from a wide range of military and civilian agencies—claimed he wasn’t told.

So notorious was the role played by Russian trolls and hackers in winning Trump the 2016 election that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was determined to prevent a repetition in 2020.

The man ultimately tasked with this mission was Chris Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency run by DHS.

Chris Krebs official photo.jpg

Chris Krebs

Krebs launched a massive effort to counter lies spread by Russians—and Americans—on social media platforms. Among his duties:

  • Sharing Intelligence from agencies such as the CIA and National Security Agency with local officials about foreign efforts at election interference.
  • Ensuring that domestic voting equipment was secure.
  • Attacking domestic misinformation head-on.

As a result, Krebs was widely praised for revamping the department’s cybersecurity efforts and increasing coordination with state and local governments. 

By all accounts—except Trump’s—the 2020 election went very smoothly. 

As a result of the vast increase in election security, Trump not only failed to win the popular vote again but couldn’t get the help he expected from Putin. 

On November 17, Trump fired Chris Krebs. 

The reason: Krebs had not only countered Russian propaganda lies—he had dared to counter Trump’s as well. For example: He rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud: There “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

Too cowardly to confront Krebs, Trump fired him by tweet—and accompanied the outrage with yet another lie:

“The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud, including dead people voting, poll watchers not allowed into polling locations, glitches in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more. Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”

In a November 17 story on the CNN website, CNN reporters Kaitlan Collins and Paul LeBlanc bluntly concluded:

“[Krebs’] dismissal underscores the lengths Trump is willing to go to punish those who don’t adopt his conspiratorial view of the election.

“Since CNN and other outlets called the race for President-elect Joe Biden, Trump has refused to accept the results, instead pushing baseless conspiracies that his second term is being stolen.

“This includes falsely claiming during an election night address that he had already won reelection, that he had won states that were actually still up in the air at the time and that his opponents were perpetrating a fraud.”

TRUMP’S FINAL SCHEMES TO REMAIN IN POWER

On November 3, Joseph Biden became President-elect of the United States by winning 81,283,495 votes, or 51.4% of the vote, compared to 74,223,755 votes, or 46.9% of the vote cast for Trump.

In the Electoral College—which actually determines the winner—the results were even more stunning: 306 votes for Biden, compared with 232 for Trump. It takes 270 votes to be declared the victor.

From the moment Biden was declared the winner, Trump set out to overturn that verdict.

Joe Biden's Next Big Decision: Choosing A Running Mate | Voice of America - English

Joseph Biden

Trump refused to accept that verdict.

Speaking from the White House in the early hours of November 4, Trump sounded like a petulant child whose planned outing has been suddenly called off:

“We were getting ready for a big celebration, we were winning everything and all of a sudden it was just called off. The results tonight have been phenomenal…I mean literally we were just all set to get outside and just celebrate something that was so beautiful, so good, such a vote such a success.” 

For the first time in American history, a President demanded a halt to the counting of votes while the outcome of an election hung in doubt. 

States ignored his demand and kept counting.

Next, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud. Specifically:

  • Illegal aliens had been allowed to vote.
  • Trump ballots were systematically destroyed.
  • A sinister computer program turned Trump votes into Biden ones.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. None were supported by evidence of fraud—as even Trump’s lawyers admitted when questioned by judges.

On November 13, nine cases meant to attack President-Elect Joseph Biden’s win in key states were denied or dropped. A law firm challenging the vote count in Pennsylvania withdrew from the effort.   

TREASON’S GREETINGS: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 15, 2021 at 12:25 am

 HISTORY’S LESSON ON TREASON

Whatever may have been my political opinions before, I have one sentiment now: That is, we have a government, and laws, and a flag, and they must all be sustained. There are but two parties now, traitors and patriots, and I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter and, I trust, the stronger party. 
—Ulysses S. Grant 

History teaches us that republics that tolerate treason soon become former republics.

Example: #1: In February, 1917, Alexander Kerensky became president of the Russian Provisional Government after the fall of Tsar Nicholas II.

Warned that Bolshevik leaders were plotting his overthrow, he refused to order their arrests: “In Russia, it’s always been too easy to arrest people who disagree with you.”

Image result for Images of Alexander Kerensky

Alexander Kerensky

On November 7, 1917, he found himself overthrown and fleeing the country for his life. A Communist government, presided over by Vladimir Lenin, assumed absolute power—and held onto it for the next 74 years

Example #2: On November 9, 1923, Nazi Party Fuhrer Adolf Hitler tried to overthrow the government in Munich, Bavaria.

About 2,000 Nazis marched to the center of Munich, where they confronted heavily-armed police. A shootout erupted, killing 16 Nazis and four policemen. 

Hitler was injured during the clash, but managed to escape. Two days later, he was arrested and charged with treason.

Put on trial, he found himself treated as a celebrity by a judge sympathetic to Right-wing groups. He was allowed to brutally cross-examine witnesses and even make inflammatory speeches.

At the end of the trial, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Serving time in Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria. he was given a huge cell, allowed to receive unlimited visitors and gifts, and treated with deference by guards and inmates.

Hitler used his time in prison to write his infamous book, Mein Kampf-–“My Struggle.” Part autobiography, part political treatise, it laid out his future plans—including the extermination of the Jews and the conquest of the Soviet Union.

Image result for Images of Adolf Hitler outside Landsberg prison

Adolf Hitler leaving Landsberg Prison, December, 20, 1924

Nine months later, he was released on parole—by authorities loyal to the authoritarian Right instead of the newly-created Weimar Republic.

Hitler immediately began rebuilding the shattered Nazi party—and deciding on a new strategy to gain power. Never again would he resort to armed force. He would win office by election—or intrigue.

On January 30, 1933, those intrigues made him Chancellor of Germany. 

Writes historian Volker Ullrich, in his monumental 2016 biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939: “Historians have perennially tried to answer the question of whether Hitler’s rise to power could have been halted….

“There were repeated opportunities to end Hitler’s run of triumphs. The most obvious one was after the failed Putsch of November 1923. Had the Munich rabble-rouser been forced to serve his full five-year term of imprisonment in Landsberg, it is extremely unlikely that he would have been able to restart his political career.”

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE ELECTIONS OF 2016 AND 2020

During the 2016 Presidential race, Russian propaganda played a major role in convincing millions of Americans to vote for Donald Trump. Social media platforms—especially Facebook and Twitter—were flooded with genuinely fake news to sow discord among Americans and create a pathway for Trump’s election.

And where Internet trolls left off, Russian computer hackers took over.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, had quickly assessed Trump as an egotistical narcissist. By appealing to Trump’s vanity, Putin expected to sharply reduce the military and political threat the United States represented to a resurgent Russia. 

Donald Trump didn’t win a majority of the popular vote in 2016—but he got enough help from Putin to put him over the top in the Electoral College. 

And Trump gladly reciprocated.

Image result for Images of Donald Trump with Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

From his first day in office, he sided with brutal dictators (Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong-On, China’s Xi Jinping) and declared war on America’s oldest and most reliable allies (Canada, Britain, France).

When he spoke with Putin face-to-face, he afterward demanded that the lone translator surrender his notes, so there would be no record of what he had agreed to with Putin.   

On May 10, 2017, Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office—and gave them highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs. 

Not only did this occur in the Oval Office, but it happened on the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to become Trump’s version of a KGB chief. 

“I just fired the head of the FBI,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

On numerous occasions Donald Trump fiercely denied any Russian connections. On January 11, 2017, he tweeted: “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!” 

But Trump’s son, Eric, bragged in 2014: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.”

THE PRICE OF HUBRIS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 6, 2020 at 12:19 am

The ancient Greeks defined hubris as overweening pride. For them, acting as if you were equal to or more powerful than the gods—or trying to defy them—was the most serious crime you could commit. And it came with a divine punishment. 

Donald Trump has acted with hubris his entire life—but never more so than once he declared himself a Presidential candidate in 2015.

He savagely insulted his opponents. From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions—including his fellow Republicans, journalists, news organizations, countries and even celebrities unconnected with politics.

Donald Trump

During debates, he belittled his Republican and Democratic opponents with insulting nicknames.

Political pundits expected that voters would reject Trump for violating long-held niceties of political discourse. But they never did.

He openly called for Russia to intervene in an American Presidential election.

On July 22, 2016, Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

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Although this amounted to treason, he was never prosecuted.

He fired FBI Director James Comey. 

On May 9, 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of he 2016 Presidential race.

Although he clearly did this to subvert an FBI investigation, Republicans solidly backed him and he remained unimpeached.

He gave CIA secrets to Russia, which had intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win.

On May 10, 2017—the day after he fired Comey—Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office—and gave them highly classified Israeli Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.

He hypocritically claimed “I am your President of law and order” after a lifetime of law-breaking.

He has been forced to shut down a fraudulent university and a fraudulent charity. He has bragged about buying politicians. He has been impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. He ordered police and military forces to attack peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park so he could stage a photo op there. 

* * * * *

Donald Trump’s rise to power has been fueled by bribery and intimidation. These methods served him well—until the advent of Coronavirus. The pandemic remains impervious to bribes or intimidation. 

He has repeatedly lied about it:

  • It’s a Democratic hoax.
  • “One day, it will disappear.”
  • There is no need for wearing masks or social distancing.
  • There is a cure for COVID-19—the malaria drug hyroxychloroquine.

Yet the deaths continue to mount—210,000 by October 5. And he has offered only one “remedy” for it: “Reopen the country!” This has resulted in asssive infection rates across the nation.

Trump planned to win re-election as the President who had created a booming economy and high employment. But businesses across the country remain shuttered because of Coronavirus fears—or likely soon will be. Nearly half of all Americans are unemployed.

To force frightened Americans back to unsafe working conditions, Trump demanded they send their children back to COVID-19-threatened schools.

Meanwhile, Trump continued to violate the health guidelines of his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—holding massive indoor rallies, refusing to wear a mask, refusing to socially distance himself from others.

For a time he seemed impervious to the virus that had struck down so many others.

Then, on October 3, Trump himself became a casualty of the plague he had so long derided. Rushed to Walter Reed Hospital, he was given a cocktail of experimental anti-Coronavirus drugs that are beyond the price range of most Americans.

On October 5, a still-positive Trump demanded that he be released and returned to the White House. And he got his way.

At least 18 White House staffers have tested positive—including his wife, First Lady Melania; his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany; his personal adviser, Hope Hicks; and his longtime adviser Kelleyanne Conway.

Suddenly, Coronavirus—the issue he had sought to ignore or downplay since January—had emerged front and center. And, with it, his arrogant refusal to address it.

In his book, The World of Herodotus, Aubrey de Selincourt writes that the Greek historian filled his book, The Histories, with “stories of the perils of pride—pride of wealth, pride of power, pride of success, and, deadliest of all, the pride which leads a man to forget that he is nothing in the sight of the gods.”

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And, in the pages of The Histories lies this warning: “Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough, God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.” 

Donald Trump has spent a lifetime committing crimes. Holding the Presidency is his only defense against prosecution—since a sitting President cannot be indicted. If he is turned out of office, prosecution awaits him at the state level in New York—and possibly at the federal level as well.

Trump’s lifelong glimpse of happiness may be about to end.

THE PRICE OF HUBRIS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 3, 2020 at 12:08 am

The ancient Greeks defined hubris as overweening pride. For them, acting as if you were equal to or more powerful than the gods—or trying to defy them—was the most serious crime you could commit. And it came with a divine punishment. 

Donald Trump has acted with hubris his entire life—but never more so than once he declared himself a Presidential candidate in 2015.

He savagely insulted his opponents. From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions—including his fellow Republicans, journalists, news organizations, countries and even celebrities unconnected with politics.

Donald Trump

During debates, he belittled his Republican and Democratic opponents with insulting nicknames.

Political pundits expected that voters would reject Trump for violating long-held niceties of political discourse. But they never did.

He openly called for the subversion of the American political system.

On July 22, 2016, during his Presidential campaign, Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

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Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts. 

He fired FBI Director James Comey. 

On May 9, 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of he 2016 Presidential race. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump during a private dinner at the White House in January.

He gave CIA secrets to Russia, which had intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win. 

On May 10, 2017—the day after he fired Comey—Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office—and gave them highly classified Israeli Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.

He has repeatedly violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which forbids Presidents to profit from office.

On January 27, 2017, Trump signed an executive order that blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

But four other Middle East countries were not covered by Trump’s travel ban: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.  Why? Because they are all countries where Trump has close business ties.

He hypocritically claimed “I am your President of law and order” after a lifetime of law-breaking.

He has been forced to shut down a fraudulent university and a fraudulent charity. He has bragged about buying politicians. He has been impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. He ordered police and military forces to attack peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park so he could film a photo op there. 

* * * * *

Donald Trump’s rise to power has been fueled by bribery and intimidation. These methods served him well—until the advent of Coronavirus. The pandemic remains impervious to bribes or intimidation. 

He has repeatedly lied about it:

  • It’s a Democratic hoax.
  • “One day, it will disappear.”
  • There is no need for wearing masks or social distancing.
  • There is a cure for COVID-19—the malaria drug hyroxychloroquine.

When the nation partially shut down in March and April, he offered one “solution”: It must immediately reopen. Those states which did so—mostly Red ones in the South and Midwest—are now flooded with COVID-19 cases and deaths. 

By July 30, COVID-19 cases in the United States stood at 4.6 million—and COVID-19 deaths stood at 155,333. 

Trump planned to win re-election as the President who had created a booming economy and high employment. But businesses across the country remain shuttered—or likely soon will be. Nearly half of all Americans are unemployed.

To force frightened Americans back to unsafe working conditions, Trump demands they send their children back to COVID-19-threatened schools.

Meanwhile, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19—and no treatment to cure it.

Trump can only falsely accuse his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, of being a socialist—even as he regularly praises Vladimir Putin, the Communist dictator of Russia.

In his book, The World of Herodotus, Aubrey de Selincourt writes that the Greek historian filled his book, The Histories, with “stories of the perils of pride—pride of wealth, pride of power, pride of success, and, deadliest of all, the pride which leads a man to forget that he is nothing in the sight of the gods.”

Related image

And, in the pages of The Histories lies this warning: “Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough, God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.” 

Donald Trump has spent a lifetime committing crimes. Holding the Presidency is his only defense against prosecution—since a sitting President cannot be indicted. If he is turned out of office, state-level prosecution awaits him in New York and possibly at the federal level as well.

Trump’s lifelong glimpse of happiness may be about to end.

CORPORATE DATA BREACHES? BLAME CEOs: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 2, 2019 at 12:43 am

On July 15, 2015, Ashley Madison joined the list of companies that failed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information—such as their credit card numbers, addresses, emails and phone numbers.

And Ashley Madison had more reason than most to do this—as the notorious website for cheating wives and husbands.

After all, its database is a blackmailer’s dream-come-true. Yet apparently its owners didn’t care enough about the privacy of their customers to provide adequate security.

Like so many other companies hit by hackers, Ashley Madison sought to reassure its dangerously compromised customers:

“At this time, we have been able to secure our sites, and close the unauthorized access points. We are working with law enforcement agencies, which are investigating this criminal act.”

This statement gave new meaning to the phrase, “Closing the barn door after the cow has gotten out.”

Avid Life Media assured its customers that it had hired “one of the world’s top IT security teams” to work on the breach.

Adultery-dating website Ashley Madison hacked

So why wasn’t this “top IT security team” hired at the outset?

On August 18, 2015, the hackers began releasing their pirated information. 

Ashley Madison’s customers chose to put their private information on its computer system.

Those of Equifax, didn’t. Equifax collected this from credit card companies.

From Mid-May through July, 2017, Equifax was hacked. The breach was discovered on July 29. 

But the company didn’t announce it until September 7, 2017.

As a result, the private data of nearly 150 million people was compromised.

On July 22, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that Equifax, one of the nation’s largest credit-reporting companies, would pay up to $700 million to settle with the FTC and consumers.

If approved by the federal district court Northern District of Georgia, the settlement will provide up to $425 million in monetary relief to consumers and a $100 million civil money penalty.

According to Karl A. Racine, attorney general for Washington, D.C., it’s the largest settlement ever for a data breach. 

“Equifax failed to protect consumers’ information and failed to enact reasonable security measures under California’s data security laws,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a news conference.

“That left very important personal information exposed and allowed hackers to steal consumers’ names, Social Security numbers, their birth dates, their addresses and in some instances their driver’s license number and even credit related information.”

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And for those who believe the private sector is inherently more efficient than the public one: On the week that Equifax agreed to pay $700 million for its massive 2017 data breach, Richard Smith, its disgraced former CEO, got some wonderful news: 

  • He was slated to receive as much as $19.6 million in stock bonuses since leaving the company.
  • That’s roughly 1,000 times the $20,000 maximum payout that any financially damaged consumer can collect from Equifax.
  • In addition, Equifax agreed to cover Smith’s medical bills for life, a benefit the company estimates is worth another $103,500.
  • Equifax decided he deserved a $24 million pension.
  • Smith got $50,000 in tax and financial planning services.
  • His stock bonuses cover a period that includes the former executive’s performance in 2017. 

When CBS News contacted Equifax on this development, the company refused to comment. Neither could Smith be reached.

There is a reason why these security breaches keep happening.

An October 22, 2014 “commentary” published in Forbes magazine raised the highly disturbing question: “Cybersecurity: Does Corporate America Really Care?”

And the answer is clearly: No.

Its author was John Hering, co-founder and executive director of Lookout, which bills itself as “the world leader in mobile security for consumers and enterprises alike.”

Click here: Cybersecurity: Does corporate America really care?

“One thing is clear,” wrote Hering. “CEOs need to put security on their strategic agendas alongside revenue growth and other issues given priority in boardrooms.”

Hering warned that “CEOs don’t seem to be making security a priority.” And he offered several reasons for this:

  • The sheer number of data compromises.
  • Relatively little consumer outcry.
  • Almost no impact on the companies’ standing on Wall Street.
  • Executives may consider such breaches part of the cost of doing business.

“There’s a short-term mindset and denial of convenience in board rooms,” wrote Hering.

“Top executives don’t realize their systems are vulnerable and don’t understand the risks. Sales figures and new products are top of mind; shoring up IT systems aren’t.”

There are three ways corporations can be forced to start behaving responsibly on this issue.

  1. Smart attorneys need to start filing class-action lawsuits against companies that refuse to take steps to protect their customers’ private information. There is a name for such behavior: Criminal negligence. And there are laws carrying serious penalties for it.
  2. There must be Federal legislation to ensure that multi-million-dollar fines are levied against such companies—and especially their CEOs—when such data breaches occur.
  3. The Justice Department should vigorously prosecute CEOs whose companies’ criminal negligence leads to such massive data breaches. They should be considered as accessories to crime, and, if convicted, sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Only then will the CEO mindset of “We don’t care, we don’t have to” be replaced with: “We care, because we’ll lose our money and/or freedom if we don’t.”

CORPORATE DATA BREACHES? BLAME CEOs: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 1, 2019 at 12:08 am

Comedian Lily Tomlin rose to fame on the 1960s comedy hit, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as Ernestine, the rude, sarcastic switchboard operator for Ma Bell.

She would tap into customers’ calls, interrupt them, make snide remarks about their personal lives. And her victims included celebrities as much as run-of-the-mill customers.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

She introduced herself as working for “the phone company, serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.”

But perhaps the line for which her character is best remembered was: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

Watching Ernestine on Laugh-In was a blast for millions of TV viewers. But facing such corporate arrogance in real-life is no laughing matter.

Clearly, too many companies take the same attitude as Ernestine: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

This is especially true for companies that are supposed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information—such as their credit card numbers, addresses, emails and phone numbers.

Among those companies hacked:

  • Kmart
  • Staples
  • Dairy Queen
  • Target
  • Sony Pictures 
  • Primera Blue Cross
  • Home Depot
  • JPMorgan/Chase

In 2015, they were joined by health insurance giant Anthem Inc. The company announced that hackers had breached its computer system and accessed the medical records of tens of millions of its customers and employees.

Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, said the infiltrated database held records on up to 80 million people.

Among the customers’ information accessed:

  • Names
  • Birthdates
  • Social Security numbers
  • Member ID numbers
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses 
  • Employment information

Some of the customer data may have included details on their income.

Click here: Anthem hack exposes data on 80 million; experts warn of identity theft – LA Times

Bad as that news was, worse was to come.

A February 5, 2015 story by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Anthem stored the Social Security numbers of 80 million customers without encrypting them.

The company believed that hackers used a stolen employee password to access the database

Anthem’s alleged reason for refusing to encrypt such sensitive data: Doing so would have made it harder for the company’s employees to track health care trends or share data with state and Federal health providers.

Anthem spokeswoman Kristin Binns blamed the data breach on employers and government agencies who “require us to maintain a member’s Social Security number in our systems so that their systems can uniquely identify their members.”

She said that Anthem encrypted personal data when it moves in or out of its database–-but not where it is stored.

This is a commonplace practice in the healthcare industry.

The FBI launched an investigation into the hack.

According to an anonymous source, the hackers used malware that has been used almost exclusively by Chinese cyberspies.

Naturally, China denied any wrongdoing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: “We maintain a cooperative, open and secure cyberspace, and we hope that countries around the world will make concerted efforts to that end.”

He also said that the charge that the hackers were Chinese was “groundless.”  

On July 15, 2015, Ashley Madison—the notorious website for cheating wives and husbands—joined this list.

Launched in 2001, its catchy slogan is: “Life is short.  Have an affair.”

One of its ads featured a photo of a woman apparently kneeling at the feet of a bare-chested man, her hand passionately clawing at his belt. Next to her was the caption: “Join FREE & change your life today. Guaranteed!”

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Millions of its clients suddenly found their lives changed in ways they never imagined—for the worse.

Ashley Madison claimed to have more than 37 million members.  

Its hackers were enraged at the company’s refusal to fully delete users’ profiles unless it received a $19 fee.

Referring to themselves as “The Impact Team,” they stated in an online manifesto: “Full Delete netted [Avid Life Media, the parent company of Ashley Madison] $1.7 million in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie.

“Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real names and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.”

On July 20, 2015, Avid Life Media defended the service, and promised to make it free.

The hackers demanded: “AM [Ashley Madison] AND EM [Established Men] MUST SHUT DOWN IMMEDIATELY PERMANENTLY.

“We have taken over all systems in your entire office and production domains, all customer information databases, source code repositories, financial records, emails.

“Shutting down AM and EM will cost you, but non-compliance will cost you more.”

The hackers threatened to “release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.”

Avid Life Media assured its customers that it had hired “one of the world’s top IT security teams” to work on the breach:

“At this time, we have been able to secure our sites, and close the unauthorized access points. We are working with law enforcement agencies, which are investigating this criminal act.”

So why didn’t the company hire “one of the world’s top IT security teams” before the hack?

THE CULPRIT IN DATA-BREACHES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 22, 2019 at 12:18 am

Comedian Lily Tomlin rose to fame on the 1960s comedy hit, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as Ernestine, the rude, sarcastic switchboard operator for Ma Bell.

She would tap into customers’ calls, interrupt them, make snide remarks about their personal lives. And her victims included celebrities as much as run-of-the-mill customers.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

She introduced herself as working for “the phone company, serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.”

But perhaps the line for which her character is best remembered was: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

Watching Ernestine on Laugh-In was a blast for millions of TV viewers. But facing such corporate arrogance in real-life is no laughing matter.

Clearly, too many companies take the same attitude as Ernestine: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

This is especially true for companies that are supposed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information—such as their credit card numbers, addresses, emails and phone numbers.

An October 22, 2014 “commentary” published in Forbes magazine raised the highly disturbing question: “Cybersecurity: Does Corporate America Really Care?”

And the answer is clearly: No.

Its author is John Hering, co-founder and executive director of Lookout, which bills itself as “the world leader in mobile security for consumers and enterprises alike.”

Click here: Cybersecurity: Does corporate America really care?

October, 2014 proved a bad month for credit card-using customers of Kmart, Staples and Dairy Queen.

All these corporations reported data breeches involving the theft of credit card numbers of countless numbers of customers.

Earlier breaches had hit Target, Home Depot and JPMorgan/Chase.

And on February 5, 2015, health insurance giant Anthem Inc. announced that hackers had breached its computer system and accessed the medical records of tens of millions of its customers and employees.

Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, said the infiltrated database held records on up to 80 million people.

Among the customers’ information accessed:

  • Names
  • Birthdates
  • Social Security numbers
  • Member ID numbers
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses and
  • Employment information.

Some of the customer data may also include details on their income.

Click here: Anthem hack exposes data on 80 million; experts warn of identity theft – LA Times

Bad as that news was, worse was to come.

A February 5 2015 story by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Anthem stored the Social Security numbers of 80 million customers without encrypting them.

The company believes that hackers used a stolen employee password to access the database

Anthem’s alleged reason for refusing to encrypt such sensitive data: Doing so would have made it harder for the company’s employees to track health care trends or share data with state and Federal health providers.

Anthem spokeswoman Kristin Binns blamed the data breach on employers and government agencies who “require us to maintain a member’s Social Security number in our systems so that their systems can uniquely identify their members.”

She said that Anthem encrypts personal data when it moves in or out of its database—but not where it  is stored.

This is a commonplace practice in the healthcare industry.

The FBI launched an investigation into the hack.

According to an anonymous source, the hackers used malware that has been used almost exclusively by Chinese cyberspies.

Naturally, China has denied any wrongdoing. With a completely straight face, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said:

“We maintain a cooperative, open and secure cyberspace, and we hope that countries around the world will make concerted efforts to that end.”

He also said that the charge that the hackers were Chinese was “groundless.”

Click here: Health Insurer Anthem Didn’t Encrypt Stolen Data – WSJ

Meanwhile, John Hering’s complaints remain as valid today as they did in 2014.

“One thing is clear,” writes Hering. “CEOs need to put security on their strategic agendas alongside revenue growth and other issues given priority in boardrooms.”

Hering warns that “CEOs don’t seem to be making security a priority.” And he offers several reasons for this:

  • The sheer number of data compromises;
  • Relatively little consumer outcry;
  • Almost no impact on the companies’ standing on Wall Street;
  • Executives may consider such breaches part of the cost of doing business.

“There’s a short-term mindset and denial of convenience in board rooms,” writes Hering.

“Top executives don’t realize their systems are vulnerable and don’t understand the risks. Sales figures and new products are top of mind; shoring up IT systems aren’t.”

There are three ways corporations can be forced to start behaving responsibly on this issue.

  1. Smart attorneys need to start filing class-action lawsuits against companies that refuse to take steps to protect their customers’ private information. There is a name for such behavior: Criminal negligence. And there are laws carrying serious penalties for it.
  2. There must be Federal legislation to ensure that multi-million-dollar fines are levied against such companies—and especially their CEOs—when such data breaches occur.
  3. Congress should enact legislation allowing for the prosecution of CEOs whose companies’ negligence leads to such massive data breaches. They should be considered as accessories to crime, and, if convicted, sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Only then will the CEO mindset of “We don’t care, we don’t have to” be replaced with: “We care, because we’ll lose our money and/or freedom if we don’t.”

DUMBOCRATS AND THEIR COMPUTERS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on April 13, 2018 at 12:06 am

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The emails were exchanged from January 2015 through May 2016.

These clearly reveal a bias for Hillary Clinton and against her lone challenger, Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders.

One email revealed that Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist. 

Sanders’ supporters had long charged that the DNC and its chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, were plotting to undercut his campaign. Now thousands of them were outraged to discover that their fears had been confirmed.  

The leak came at a disastrous time for Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, United States Senator from New York and Secretary of State under President Barack Obama.

About to receive the Democratic nomination for President, she found herself charged with undermining the electoral process. 

Wasserman-Schultz proved the first casualty of the leak, resigning from her position as chair of the DNC and saying she would not open the Democratic convention as previously scheduled.

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Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

As for Clinton: Her campaign manager, Bobby Mook, blamed the Russians for the leak. Their alleged motive: To help Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Cyber-security experts believed the hackers originated from Russia—-and that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have authorized it.

His alleged motive: Trump had repeatedly attacked United States’ membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Trump believed the United States was paying an unfairly large portion of the monies needed to maintain this alliance—and he wanted other members to contribute far more. He made it clear that if they didn’t—and if he was elected President—they would be on their own if attacked by Russia.

Trump took to twitter to offer his take on the release: “How much BAD JUDGEMENT was on display by the people in DNC in writing those really dumb e-mails, using even religion, against Bernie!”  

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Bernie Sanders

Which brings up the obvious question: Why was such sensitive information entrusted to computers that could be hacked? 

This is not the first time a major corporation or government agency has fallen prey to hackers.

Name-brand companies, trusted by millions, have been hit with massive data breaches that compromised their customers’ and/or employees’ most sensitive financial and personal information.

Among those companies and agencies:

  • Target
  • Kmart
  • Home Depot
  • JPMorgan/Chase
  • Staples
  • Dairy Queen
  • Anthem, Inc.
  • Sony Pictures
  • The U.S. State Department
  • The Pentagon
  • The Office of Personnel Management

Perhaps the most notorious target hacked was Ashley Madison, the website for cheating wives and husbands. Launched in 2001, its catchy slogan was: “Life is short. Have an affair.”  

On July 15, 2015, its more than 37 million members learned that highly embarrassing secrets they had entrusted to Ashley Madison had been compromised.

This included their sexual fantasies, matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.

A website offering cheating services to those wealthy enough to afford high-priced fees is an obvious target for hackers. After all, its database is a blackmailer’s dream-come-true.  

And the same is true for computers of one of the two major political parties of the United States. 

Among the secrets unearthed in the WikiLeaks document-dump: Plans by Democratic party officials to reward large donors and prominent fundraisers with lucrative appointments to federal boards and commissions.

Most of the donors listed gave to Clinton’s campaign. None gave to Sanders.

According to Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group: 

“The disclosed DNC emails sure look like the potential Clinton Administration has intertwined the appointments to federal government boards and commissions with the political and fund raising operations of the Democratic Party. That is unethical, if not illegal.”  

Centuries before the invention of computers–and the machinery needed to hack into them–Niccolo Machiavelli offered cautionary advice to those thinking of entering into a conspiracy.  He did so in his masterwork on politics, The Discourses.  

Niccolo Machiavelli

Unlike his better-known work, The Prince, which deals with how to secure power, The Discourses lays out rules for preserving liberty within a republic.

In Book Three, Chapter Six (“Of Conspiracies”) he writes:

“I have heard many wise men say that you may talk freely with any one man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the ‘Yes’ of one man is worth as much as the ‘No’ of another. 

“And therefore one should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting.”

In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of France, ordered the execution of the popular Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, claiming that he had aided Britain and plotted against France.

The aristocracy of Europe, still recalling the slaughters of the French Revolution, was shocked. 

Asked for his opinion on the execution, Napoleon’s chief of police, Joseph Fouche, said: “It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder.”  

This may prove to be history’s verdict on the storing of so many incriminating computer files by the DNC.

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