Hackers Came — The French Were Ready For Them

Everyone saw the hackers coming…The National Security Agency in Washington picked up the signs. So did Emmanuel Macron’s bare-bones technology team. And mindful of what happened in the American presidential campaign, the team created dozens of false email accounts, complete with phony documents, to confuse the attackers.

❝ The Russians, for their part, were rushed and a bit sloppy, leaving a trail of evidence that was not enough to prove for certain they were working for the government of President Vladimir V. Putin but which strongly suggested they were part of his broader “information warfare” campaign…

But that outcome was hardly assured on Friday night, when what was described as a “massive” hacking attack suddenly put Mr. Macron’s electoral chances in jeopardy. To French and American officials, however, it was hardly a surprise.

❝ …The staff at Mr. Macron’s makeshift headquarters in the 15th Arrondissement at the edge of Paris didn’t need the N.S.A. to tell them they were being targeted: In December, after the former investment banker and finance minister had emerged as easily the most anti-Russian, pro-NATO and pro-European Union candidate in the presidential race, they began receiving phishing emails.

Even before then, the Macron campaign had begun looking for ways to make life a little harder for the Russians, showing a level of skill and ingenuity that was missing in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and at the Democratic National Committee, which had minimal security protections and for months ignored F.B.I. warnings that its computer system had been penetrated.

❝ “We went on a counteroffensive,” digital director, Mounir Mahjoubi said. “We couldn’t guarantee 100 percent protection” from the attacks, “so we asked: what can we do?” Mr. Mahjoubi opted for a classic “cyber-blurring” strategy, well known to banks and corporations, creating false email accounts and filled them with phony documents the way a bank teller keeps fake bills in the cash drawer in case of a robbery…

Mr. Mahjoubi refused to reveal the nature of the false documents that were created, or to say whether, in the Friday document dump that was the result of the hacking campaign, there were false documents created by the Macron campaign.

But he did note that in the mishmash that constituted the Friday dump, there were some authentic documents, some phony documents of the hackers’ own manufacture, some stolen documents from various companies, and some false emails created by the campaign.

❝ “It’s clear they were rushed,” Mr. Hultquist said. “If this was APT28,” he said, using the name for a Russian group believed to be linked to the GRU, a military intelligence agency, “they have been caught in the act, and it has backfired for them.”

Russian hackers were dealing with not only a better educated populace; but, a more sophisticated audience than American voters. LePen and her populist campaign had to walk away from the most backwards aspects of campaigns her father would have run twenty or thirty years ago. She could not substitute anti-Semitism for Trump’s anti-Mexican slurs – as her father would have.

Trump’s dalliance in misogynist assaults might have cynical appeal to fools in France – as they do in the United States. But, Trump’s contempt for physically-handicapped wouldn’t play – for example – in a nation where until recently public transport still reserved front seats for victims of war.

The French shrugged off Big Lies because they knew from experience what the population in general was gifted by populist liars – and their supporters, domestic or foreign.

No Republican President since World War 2 missed their chance to dump Americans into a recession

❝ Here’s a frightening factoid for Donald Trump as he prepares to take office next month: Every Republican president since World War II has been in power during at least one recession.

Of course, as the saying goes, past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results and the billionaire developer may well avoid a downturn on his watch.

But with the economic expansion soon to become the third-longest on record, the risk of a contraction occurring during his time in office can’t be cavalierly dismissed…

The same can’t be said of Democrats. Outgoing President Barack Obama did preside over an economic downturn in his first six months in office – one he inherited from his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush. John F. Kennedy took office just before a recession ended. And the U.S. entered and exited slumps when Jimmy Carter and Harry Truman were in charge.

But it was recession-free during the tenures of Democrats Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s and Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

❝ “The U.S. economy has performed better when the president of the United States is a Democrat rather than a Republican,” Princeton University professors Alan Blinder and Mark Watson wrote in a paper published in the American Economic Review this year.

RTFA if you feel like spending a minute reading a journalist trying to cover his butt by sounding “fair and balanced”. Otherwise, take a look at the crowd of neo-cons and nutballs Trump has cobbled together for a cabinet. All the neo-con types who can’t win a primary in the 21st Century get to guide policy as a matter of choice instead of competency – once again. The losers who felt George the Little was too liberal – and demand economic policies formulated and failing since the days of Hoover and Hayek – get yet another chance at crushing the US economy with dribble-down crappola.

And, then, there are the nutballs. The leadership of stupid over ignorant. I quoted the usual misquote of Mencken in the weeks before the election: “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” It still stands. And the truly incompetent, conspiracy-nuts, the spooky fools who get daily headlines on FOX NEWS, led the least-educated portion of the American electorate down the same old primrose path that worked for Hoover and Reagan…and Trump.

John McCain proves to teabagger Republicans he can be as much of a bigot as anyone else


Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The House of Representatives has delivered a victory to President Barack Obama and gay rights groups by approving a proposal to repeal the law that allows gays to serve in the military only if they don’t disclose their sexual orientation.

The 234-194 vote to overturn the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy reflected a view among many in Congress that America was ready for a military in which gays and straights can stand side by side in the trenches.

“I know that our military draws its strength on the integrity of our unified force, and current law challenges this integrity by creating two realities within the ranks,” Democratic Rep. Susan Davis.

In a statement after the House vote, Obama hailed the day’s congressional action as “important bipartisan steps toward repeal.”

“This legislation will help make our armed forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity,” Obama said.

Republicans, who voted overwhelmingly against it, cited statements by some military leaders that they need more time to study how a change in the law could affect the lives and readiness of service members…

“NO” is replaced by “not in my lifetime”.

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Turkeys voting for Xmas: the American electorate

The Republicans’ shock victory in the election for the US Senate seat in Massachusetts meant the Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate. This makes it even harder for the Obama administration to get healthcare reform passed in the US…

Only because of opportunist allegiance by both parties to anti-democratic rules in the Senate…

But it is striking that the people who most dislike the whole idea of healthcare reform – the ones who think it is socialist, godless, a step on the road to a police state – are often the ones it seems designed to help.

In Texas, where barely two-thirds of the population have full health insurance and over a fifth of all children have no cover at all, opposition to the legislation is currently running at 87%.

Instead, to many of those who lose out under the existing system, reform still seems like the ultimate betrayal…

If people vote against their own interests, it is not because they do not understand what is in their interest or have not yet had it properly explained to them.

They do it because they resent having their interests decided for them by politicians who think they know best.

There is nothing voters hate more than having things explained to them as though they were idiots…

Even if the operative word is “ignoramus” instead of “idiot” – the result is the same.

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