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Monday, June 29, 2015

The Cold Cyberwar We Live In

The data breaches of major US firms and government agencies threatens to become--no, has become--a critical national security issue.  An ongoing cold cyberwar represents the new reality.

The attacks on the Office of Personnel Management and US Investigative Services, a private firm that conducts background investigations for the government, obviously is a planned strategy.  It has exposed millions of personnel records.  It is undermining public confidence in our security clearance system. This from the Washington Post today: 

The massive cyberattack last year on the federal contractor that conducted background investigations for security clearances may have been even more widespread than previously known, affecting the police force that protects Congress and an intelligence agency that helped track down Osama bin Laden.
After Falls Church, Va.-based USIS suffered the intrusion, the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Homeland Security issued stop-work orders to the company. And eventually OPM, which conducts background checks for the overwhelming majority of the federal government, canceled USIS’s contracts, effectively putting the company out of business.
But now USIS has told Congress in a letter obtained by The Washington Post that the breach may have been even more damaging: OPM, two DHS agencies — Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — the U.S. Capitol Police and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency were all hit.
Who's doing this?  The Russians or the Chinese, probably.  We need better cyber forensics to figure it out.  And a proportional means of retaliation.  Our defensive strategy is sorely lacking.

Justice Thomas's Dissent

In the Gay Marriage ruling,  Justice Thomas explains that liberty is only something the government can take away from you.  Liberty does not me being provided a government benefit.  Likewise, dignity is not something the government can hold from you either.   You preserve, or give up, your own dignity. 

Read the ruling here:  Much of it, including CJ Roberts's dissent, gives a short history on where our liberties come from in the first place, and is of great value. Supreme Court opinion

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Waterloo: 200 Years Ago Today

One of the great battles of history.   But was it that decisive?   Leipzig a year earlier pretty much sealed Napoleon's fate.   The Seven Coalition never would have let him survive in power after his dramatic return from exile and coup d'├ętat against Louis XIX. 

But still:  if only Marshal Soult had been with Napoleon that day!  If only Grouchy had screened Bluecher Prussian army! 

If only they hadn't attacked British squares with cavalry!  Even I know that. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Mysterious Ukraine Crisis, Explained

What really happened in the Ukraine?   It seems like an artificial crisis to me.  Why try to get Ukraine into the EU?   Why would Putin want to support separatists, rather than influence Ukrainian democratic politics?   Both sides acted irrationally.  Now that the stories have died down, perhaps we can look at this issue dispassionately. 

I never understood why the U.S. was so anxious to dispose President Yanukovych.  He was democratically elected.  Perhaps we didn't care for his alignment with Moscow, but so what?   It is hardly vital to our interests who governs Ukraine. 

Well,  George Friedman of Stratfor explains that our policy is geared toward opposing regional hegemons.  So if Russia is getting too strong, we must do something to throw it off balance.  Our support for the protestors in Ukraine had more to do with making problems for Russia in its own front yard.  It was not in retaliation for Syria or Snowden.   See this very interesting interview with Friedman here:  Friedman on the Ukraine crisis

One thing of note: Friedman seems pretty certain that what happened in Ukraine was a US-backed coup against Yanukovych.   Using protesters as shock troops against government forces to discredit a sitting government has been used effectively in Latin America for years.   I had to say, that at the time, it looked like a pretty familiar scenario!  (See Bolivia,  Ecuador, and Venezuela in 2002.) 

The happy reactionary Peter Hitchens in the Mail adds his two cents, with a review on a new book "Frontline Ukraine" describing the Ukraine crisis here: a-review-of-frontline-ukraine-by-richard-sakwa  I need to read this book.  Here, Hitchens argues the US dragged the EU into this crisis reluctantly.  We are still pursuing a policy of expanding the EU and NATO, even though it is clear that both are suffering from overexpansion.