Apple vs. FBI — What This Case Means for YOU

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

and

Guest Author & Information Security professional Chris Magill

The FBI wants Apple to rewrite code for iPhones in order to break into a phone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. Apple said no. They are now embroiled in a lawsuit.

On March 1, the FBI admitted exactly WHY it needs Apple’s help. The FBI was in the phone, with access to everything it needed. Then someone at the FBI changed the phone’s password. They forgot the password. Now, the FBI can’t get back in the phone.

In other words, the FBI is asking that it be allowed to gut the constitutional rights of every American in perpetuity because it made a sophomoric boo-boo.

This begs some questions . . .

1)  Why doesn’t the FBI just ask the NSA for the information?

The cat got out of the Snowden bag a few years ago that the NSA collects and stores every electronic communication that takes place in America, including and especially phone communications. Investigating the San Bernardino jihadis and their play pals is EXACTLY why the NSA collects and stores these communications. If the NSA can’t give the information to the FBI, they need to give US citizens a refund of the untold fortunes they have wasted on this data collection. (See Spooks Without Boundaries by Piper Bayard.)

2)  If the NSA for any reason can’t give the FBI the information it needs, why doesn’t the FBI ask Israel or one of the Five Eyes nations?

Again, thanks to the Snowden cat, it is public knowledge that the White House allows Israel and the Five Eyes nations (Canada, UK, NZ, Australia) access to the raw data that the NSA collects on Americans. If the NSA can’t give the FBI the info, we’re sure that for a few shekels, Israel would be happy to find it for them.

3)  What does this lawsuit mean for the American citizen?

To give you the best information possible, we have invited Information Security professional and privacy advocate Chris Magill to answer that question for us . . .

Internet bugs Canstock

Apple vs. the FBI: What This Case Means for YOU

By Chris Magill

Apple and the FBI are currently locked in a struggle over your right to privacy. The Federal government has asked the courts to require Apple to change its code to allow FBI agents to read protected data on an iPhone believed to belong to one of the San Bernardino attackers. It also wants this capability to be applied to all iPhones, even yours.

So, the question becomes should private citizens be allowed communications capabilities which cannot be read by the government?

By law, there already are communications which are protected from government eyes. For example, attorney-client privilege prevents the government from listening in on private conversations when discussing legal strategies. As Americans, we also have the protections of the right to Freedom of Speech and the right to Freedom of Assembly. Allowing government access to our phones without a warrant destroys these rights.

What is cryptography?

Cryptography is a mathematical operation that replaces plain text with scrambled characters that can only be correctly interpreted by someone who holds the secret “key.”

Cryptography has existed for thousands of years. It was a vital means of protecting communications during the Revolutionary War. Thomas Jefferson greatly improved cryptography after the founding of our country when he developed the Wheel Cipher while serving as George Washington’s Secretary of State. Yes, the United States once had a Secretary of State who understood the importance of cryptography. In the iPhone, the iMessage feature encrypts instant messages between recent iPhone versions, making it very difficult to be read by anyone other than the intended recipient, even with access to the device.

What is a backdoor?

A backdoor is an easy-to-decrypt method for governments to read content on devices that would otherwise be very difficult to access.

Think of it as though the Federal Government sought to require you to leave your patio door unlocked in case a police officer needs to access your living room during an investigation. Obviously this would be ridiculous. Only a tiny fraction of homes would ever need to be entered by police, yet everyone would be at risk from criminals entering the unsecured door. Backdoors are a dangerous idea for two reasons. First, they require a known weakness, which can then be exploited by hackers or online thieves. And second, backdoors enable government to bypass the judicial branch to spy on citizens in violation of our rights.

Aren’t bad guys protected by cryptography?

Yes, in the same way that bad guys are protected by the Constitution.

We have constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure. These protections should also apply to the communications we share and the contents of our devices we rely on in our daily lives. The iPhone isn’t the strongest available way to pass secret messages. A determined adversary will find communications methods that can only be countered by diligent, labor-intensive traditional law enforcement and counterintelligence methods.

I haven’t broken the law, so I have nothing to hide. How does this affect me?

By the 1980s, the Justice Department estimated there were approximately 3,000 criminal offenses spanning more than 23,000 pages of Federal law. Even if you are the best attorney in the world, it’s unlikely you could even know for sure whether you’ve never violated any of them.

If the government decides to prosecute you, they have a huge arsenal of regulations to select from which you will have to defend against. Skilled cyber criminals, spies, and terrorist organizations already have access to encryption that is theoretically unbreakable. The bad guys don’t rely on commercial encryption products in consumer devices.

A government backdoor does not make you any safer from terrorism.

It does make it easier for governments to find and target those who disagree with them. This is a concern in modern day America. Ask any conservative group targeted by Lois Lerner’s IRS. With government access to a backdoor to your phone, finding people who have a differing political view becomes as simple as a Google search.

What else can happen if cryptography is compromised?

This has happened in the recent past. In 2011, Comodo was compromised by a nation state-affiliated hacker group.

Comodo is a registration authority that creates cryptographic certificates which tell your web browser the web sites you visit are who they claim to be. Fake certificates were created that enabled the government of Iran to intercept and read the personal emails of citizens using Gmail and Hotmail. We will likely never know how many Iranian dissidents were rounded up and imprisoned (or worse) as a result of this compromise. Weak encryption makes it easier for oppressive governments to spy on their own citizens and crush dissent. Weak cryptography is also a factor in most, if not all, data breaches. If your identity was stolen in any of the countless data breaches, such as Target, Home Depot, Experian, or OPM, you probably have weak or compromised cryptography to thank.

What next?

Governments have an insatiable appetite to know everything about their citizen’s activities, acquaintances, political views, and beliefs. They also have a desire to prevent citizens from having capabilities that are difficult for them to counter.

The Apple vs FBI case is not about terrorism or crime. This case is about control of the transfer of ideas.

You are the government. You select your representatives. They work for you. They derive their authority from you. You have the power to demand that they stop. Tell your representatives to block efforts to weaken freedom of speech by banning civilian access to strong encryption. Tell them to prevent the government from requiring tech companies to enable spying through commercial products.

Allowing the government to secretly spy on all Americans is the digital equivalent of book burning. Ideas that are found distasteful to whichever administration holds power can be sought out and banned, and those citizens with undesirable views targeted for retaliation or punishment. Far from protecting us from terrorists, such actions only serve to weaken our democracy.

Sources:

TechTarget: “A breach at a registration authority caused Comodo to issue nine fraudulent certificates, enabling an attacker to impersonate some major websites and servers.”

http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/news/1529110/Comodo-warns-of-serious-SSL-certificate-breach

CNet: “Apple’s iMessage encryption trips up feds’ surveillancehttp://www.cnet.com/news/apples-imessage-encryption-trips-up-feds-surveillance/

Chris Magill is an Information Security professional and privacy advocate. When he isn’t helping companies manage their cryptographic systems and hunting down hackers, Chris enjoys spending time on his small ranch with his family in the Pacific Northwest chasing horses around. His LinkedIn profile is https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmagill

Germans Thrown Under the Migrant Politics Bus

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

When the crucible of reality proves political ideals to be harmful to the people, political leaders have two choices: they can own up to the issues, or they can suppress evidence in a bid to maintain their power. When leaders choose the latter, the dysfunction inevitably seeps through the cracks of the propaganda containment efforts, and when it does, the political leaders need someone to throw under the bus. In Germany, that “someone” is the German people.

 

Syrian refugees bound for Germany and Central Europe Image by Mstyslav Chernov, wikimedia commons.

Syrian refugees bound for Germany and Central Europe
Image by Mstyslav Chernov, wikimedia commons.

 

German Chancellor Merkel’s willkommenskultur open door policy resulted in 1.1 million North African and Arab refugees flooding into Germany in 2015 – over five times the number anticipated.

Overall, 72% of the migrants are men, 13% are women, and 15% are children. Germany admits it has already lost track of half of these refugees, and that many of them are not Syrian at all. This flood of humanity is not receding with the turn of the calendar year, and the Gatestone Institute predicts that, with family reunifications, the number of migrants in Germany could swell to as many as 7 million.

When we consider the fact that European countries haven’t even integrated with each other over the past thousand years, it’s no surprise that Germany and the rest of Europe are now in the grip of a culture clash. One of the nastiest elements of that culture clash is the spike in crime in the German refugee camps and surrounding areas, particularly in sexual assault rates.

While German officials and media have made frantic efforts to hide this crack in the practical applicability of their ideals, the dark truth came to a head on New Year’s Eve.

Organized groups of predatory “North African and Arab” men surrounded German women and men in New Year’s Eve crowds and sexually assaulted them in a practice known as “taḥarrush gamāʿī,” or taharrush gamea. This “sex game” is an Arab phenomenon first given a name in Egypt in 2004, and it is similar to what is known in the West as a gang rape.

While police recorded refugee-perpetrated sexual assaults and robberies throughout German cities on New Year’s Eve, 1,049 of those reports came from the city of Cologne. (For full police list see Revealed: Full List of 1,049 Victims, Crimes Committed During Cologne New Year’s Sex Assaults.) Over 359 women reported being sexually assaulted in every way from groping, to hands up their skirts and down their pants, to fingers shoved inside them, to all out rape.

The following has been the official response of the German government to the sexual attacks:

  • News of the attacks was suppressed for days until nearly 100 women had come forward and social media had circulated the story.

 

 

  • The Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, advised that women should be more careful. The town would distribute guidelines to prepare women against sexual attacks. One “guideline” recommended by Reker was that women should keep strangers “at arm’s length.”
  • Mayor Reker refuted her own chief of police by insisting the mass, organized attacks had nothing to do with the migrants, although the police chief reported that 14 out of 15 of the attackers were of “North African and Arab” origin.
  • In spite of enormous security camera surveillance, only 30 suspects have been identified, and only two are behind bars. All are North Africans.
  • Flyers have been posted at public facilities with cartoon drawings attempting to educate refugees that they should not assault women.
  • Interior Minister Ralf Jaeger stated, “What happens on the right-wing platforms and in chat rooms is at least as awful as the acts of those assaulting the women.” (Apparently, he is unfamiliar with the difference between disliking people and raping them.)

And from other quarters . . .

  • The German feminist response has been to say that German born men attack women, too. Blame German born men.
  • One Cologne New Year’s Eve sexual assault victim gave an interview to the news describing her attackers as dark-skinned Arabic speakers. A social media troll then took a clip from the interview and posted it on the Internet, suggesting her account was nothing but anti-Muslim propaganda. The video included her full name and her work place, and it went viral. The woman received threatening phone calls at work and was attacked on Facebook as being “racist” and a “right-winger.”
  • Imam Sami Abu-Musuf of the Al Tawheed mosque in Cologne declared the sex assaults were the women’s own fault for wearing Western clothing and perfume.

The New Year’s Eve attacks are not the first indication that Merkel’s open door policy is creating unforeseen trauma for the German public.

  • Sexual assaults are an “everyday event” at registration centers, including assaults on the staff, and women are sold for 10 Euros a trick inside the camps.
  • Having brought tribal, cultural, and theological divisions with them, warring gangs within camps frequently clash, and Christians and homosexuals suffer brutal attacks. One brawl at a Hamburg registration center involved 200 Syrians and Afghanis. Fifty police vehicles were called in to quell the violence.
  • In response to this violence inside refugee camps, Hamburg, Germany passed a law in October 2015, allowing the government to seize vacant commercial properties for migrant housing.
  • Small towns have awakened to 25% – 50% increases in their populations, with tent cities thrown up at their edges inside of a week. Those towns report increased crime and severely decreased business traffic, as well as residents afraid to leave their homes. Parents have been cautioned to not allow their children outside alone.
  • School gym classes and sports clubs in cities have been canceled as the gymnasiums have been filled with refugees.
  • Women across Europe have been advised to put away their midriff tops and short skirts to avoid “misunderstandings” with the migrants.
  • Groups of migrant women have attacked European women on the beaches for wearing skimpy clothing.
  • Immigrant men have arrived with brides as young as 12 – 14 years old. Some of these child brides already have children of their own. These marriages are not recognized in Germany, and the girls are are being treated as “unaccompanied minors,” to be cared for by the Youth Welfare Office.
  • The gun-control loving societies of Europe are now arming themselves in every way they can. Purchase of air-propelled firearms skyrocketed in Germany after the New Year’s Eve attacks, and rates for gun permits and pepper spray sales are unprecedented. The black market for firearms is booming Germany and the rest of the EU states that are dealing with the migrant crisis.

Rather than face the fact that the overnight influx of 1.1 million North Africans and Arabs has created severe social problems for Germany, German officials are continuing their narrative that the refugees are no different from Germans, and that suggesting they are is both “racist” and “counter to European values.” By insisting that it is inappropriate to imply that diverse African and Middle Eastern cultures might actually be diverse, having different values, mores, and norms from Europeans that would potentially make them incompatible, German officials are missing a few points.

  • Refugees are fleeing from desperate situations. They did not wake up one morning and say, “Hey. I think I want to be German. I want to give up my child brides and accept women and homosexuals as my equals.” Just because they leave North Africa and Syria, it doesn’t mean they want to put on lederhosen and embrace women’s rights, sexual freedom and equality, and German laws.
  • These refugees largely hail from countries where women and children have little or no rights and are, for all intents and purposes, themselves the property of their male relatives. Unless Germany meets this core difference head on and emphasizes to the migrants from their arrival that women are not the property of men, the male refugees will be unlikely to recognize or accept this fact, and the female refugees will be conceptually unable to exercise their freedom. This re-education is essential for integration into Western societies.
  • By hiding and excusing the crimes perpetrated by the migrants, the German government sends the message to the German people that it will not protect them. This shreds the social contract, and vigilantism and radical anti-government organizations prosper.
  • By hiding and excusing the behavior of these migrants, the German government perpetuates racism. It sends the message to both the German people and the migrants that the newcomers are not capable of behaving properly in German society – that they are not the equal of Germans and need special rules.
  • The German government is placing the burden of physical safety onto the public when it insists that women should change their dress and behavior and that parents should restrict their children’s movements to avoid being molested or raped by the large male migrant population. This is a suppression of the civil rights of all German citizens and sets back women’s rights, in particular, a good four hundred years.

Germany is not alone in excusing and covering evidence of crimes committed by North African and Arab migrants.*

Taharrush gamea attacks were first reported in Sweden at the 2014 We Are Sthlm music festival. At that time, Stockholm police were instructed not to reveal the ethnicity or nationality of the attackers for fear of being seen as “racists.” It’s worth noting that Sweden has now changed its open door policy for refugees as of November of 2015, reverting to EU minimum requirements.

Government suppression of evidence of the clash between European and migrant cultural practices and norms not only fails to address the needs of the migrants, but risks creating a severe backlash from citizens of the host countries.

The only hope the West has of successfully assimilating this massive flow of North African and Arab refugees is to demand that the migrants accede to their host countries’ customs and laws without exception. Migrants that break the laws of the host countries must be dealt with swiftly and unapologetically with the protection of citizens being the utmost priority. Social contract demands this from those who govern, but that is only possible when those who govern are willing to be flexible and resourceful enough in modifying their ideals to meet the demands of reality.

Unless Germany develops an open door policy for reality, either the people will turn on the migrants, turn on those whom they elected to provide common security, or both.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

This video statement by Paul Joseph Watson sums up the situation well:

The Rape of Europe

 

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

*The practice of taharrush gamea reached Finland in 2015 after that country took in a record 32,000 refugees, giving Finland the fourth highest number of refugees per capita in the EU.

According to the deputy chief of police in Helsinki, Ilkka Koskimaki, sexual assault was unknown in Finland prior to the influx of immigrants, making the 14 sexual assaults in 2015 a record year. In response, unarmed groups calling themselves the “Sons of Odin” now patrol the streets in many towns where refugees are housed.

This past New Year’s Eve, staff at the asylum reception centers tipped off police about planned taharrush gamea attacks. In spite of the “massive” police presence sent to control approximately 1000 Iraqi refugees who had gathered in the tunnels around the central railway, security personnel reported unprecedented widespread sexual harassment. Thus far, Finland, unlike many European governments, does not appear to be attempting to cover up the ethnicities or nationalities of the perpetrators.

A Few of Our Sources:

1.  “Germany Registers Record 1.1 Million Asylum Seekers in 2015”  http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2016/1/6/refugees-germany-more-than-1million.html

2.  “Germany: Migrant Crime Wave, Police Capitulate”  http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/6668/germany-migrant-crime-wave

3.  “Taharrush gamea” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taharrush_gamea

4.  “Revealed: Full List of 1,049 Victims, Crimes Committed During Cologne New Year’s Sex Assaults” http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/01/21/revealed-full-list-of-1049-victims-crimes-committed-during-cologne-new-years-eve-sex-assaults/

5.  “Cologne Mayor: Women Should Be More Careful After Migrant Mass Rapes, Promises ‘Guidance” So They Can “Prepare'” http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/01/05/cologne-mayor-women-careful-migrant-mass-rapes-promises-guidance-can-prepare/

6.  “Germans Battle Refugee Sex Assaults with Signs, Cartoons”  http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/01/22/germans-battle-refugee-sex-assaults-with-signs-cartoons.html

7.  “Cologne Assault: Cultural Difference Is No Excuse for Rape”  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/12087780/Cologne-assault-Cultural-difference-is-no-excuse-for-rape.html

8.  “Cologne Sexual Assault Victim Called a Rapist and Harassed After Identifying Her Attackers” http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/01/13/2770829/

9.  “Muslim Cleric Says Cologne Sex Attacks Were the Victims’ Fault Because They Wore Perfume” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3408033/Muslim-cleric-says-Cologne-sex-attacks-victims-fault-wore-PERFUME.html

10.  “Migrant Crisis: Women Sold for Sex for €10 in German Refugee Camps”  http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/migrant-crisis-women-sold-sex-10-german-refugee-camps-1524515

11.  “Inside the ‘Refugee Centers:’ A Worker Speaks” http://newobserveronline.com/inside-the-refugee-centers-a-worker-speaks/

12.  “Horror as Christian Migrant ‘Brutally Beaten with Baton in Refugee Camp'”  http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/613479/Migrant-Refugee-Germany-Camp-Attack-Afghan-Iranian-Christianity-Koran-Syrian-Hamburg

13.  “A Refugee Riot Puts a German Town on Edge”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/a-refugee-riot-puts-a-german-town-on-edge/2015/10/01/fa9075bc-65f5-11e5-bdb6-6861f4521205_story.html

14.  “Hamburg to Seize Empty Commercial Properties for Migrant Housing” http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/10/02/hamburg-to-seize-empty-commercial-properties-for-migrant-housing/

15.  “Empathy and Angst in a German City Transformed by Refugees”  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/12/world/europe/empathy-and-angst-in-a-german-city-transformed-by-migrants.html?_r=1

16.  “Child Refugee Brides as Young as Twelve Ordered to Stay with Men They Were Forced to Marry” http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/614083/Fatema-Alkasem-Child-Refugee-Brides-Netherlands-Paedophilia-EU-European-Union

17.  “Fears Rise Over Child Bride Epidemic as Young Girls Go Missing in Europe”  http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/10/22/syrian-child-brides-seeking-asylum-open-new-front-european-migrant-crisis/

18.  “Germans Stock Up on Weapons for Self Defense”  http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7088/germany-weapons

19.  “Refugee Crime Driving Germans to Buy Guns” http://www.shtfplan.com/headline-news/refugee-crime-driving-germans-to-buy-guns-huge-influx-of-foreigners-has-frightened-many-people_12212015

20.  “Case Study on Middle East & North Africa. Women’s Property Rights in the MENA Region”  http://internationalpropertyrightsindex.org/MENA

21.  “It’s Not Only Germany that Covers Up Mass Sex Attacks by Men…Sweden’s Record is Shameful” http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/01/its-not-only-germany-that-covers-up-mass-sex-attacks-by-migrant-men-swedens-record-is-shameful/

22.  “Sweden Slams Shut Its Open Door Policy Toward Refugees”  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/24/sweden-asylum-seekers-refugees-policy-reversal

23.  “Unprecedented Sex Harassment in Helsinki at New Year, Finnish Police Report”  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/finland/12088332/Unprecedented-sex-harassment-in-Helsinki-at-New-Year-Finnish-police-report.html

Further reading:

1.  “Germany: Migrants’ Rape Epidemic” http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/6527/migrants-rape-germany

2.  “Suspects in Cologne Sex Attacks ‘Claimed to be Syrian Refugees'”  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/12086473/Suspects-in-Cologne-sex-attacks-claimed-to-be-Syrian-refugees.html

3.  “Germany Shuts Its Open Door to Refugees” http://observer.com/2015/11/germany-shuts-its-open-door-to-refugees/

4.  “Is the Refugee Crisis Creating a European Rape Crisis?”  http://www.dailywire.com/news/1120/refugee-crisis-creating-european-rape-crisis-aaron-bandler

Taiwan’s Election is a Communist Rejection

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On January 16, 2016, Taiwan held national elections. The results were clear. Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, the Democratic Progressive Party (“DPP”) chairperson and presidential candidate, won a landslide victory with 56.1% of the votes. Eric Chu of the Kuomintang Party (“KMT”) garnered 30.1% percent of the votes.

 

President-Elect Dr. Tsai Ing-Wen Image by MiNe(sfmine79), wikimedia commons.

President-Elect Dr. Tsai Ing-Wen
Image by MiNe(sfmine79), wikimedia commons.

 

In the same elections, the DPP achieved a clear majority in the legislature, winning 68 of 110 seats. That is enough for the DPP to legally overcome any opposition in the legislature. Whenever a national election results in a landslide, usually at least one of two things is true – either the elections are the single candidate, North Korean style farce, or the voters are unhappy with the status quo. In the case of Taiwan, it is the latter, but there is more to it than that.

Prior to the elections, the Taiwanese public had made it clear that they were tired of the corruption and economic mismanagement that their government had inflicted on them. On January 16, they were largely voting for change.

At the same time, a significant portion of previously steadfast KMT loyalists had lost faith in their party because the KMT had shifted toward overt cooperation with the communist regime in Beijing. The KMT had bet heavily on the benefits of economic cooperation with Communist China. That bet did not pay off.

It is a mystery why the Kuomintang Party ignored the pathetic examples many Western nations have set by trusting Communist China in business and diplomatic dealings. A glance at the last thirty years of US history would have let them know what to expect. They either never took that glance, or they were serving interests other than those of the people of Taiwan.

Communist China’s reactionary response to the DPP’s victory was swift and predictable. The regime in Beijing publicly warned Taiwan that any attempt at declaring independence will result in an immediate, crushing military defeat by the Red Army.

To Westerners, this response might sound a bit severe and childishly undiplomatic, but nobody in Taiwan was surprised. The communists have been demanding the “return” of Taiwan to Communist China since the Chinese Nationalist Army retreated to that island in 1949. Since then, “obey our rule or die” has been Beijing’s standard mantra toward Taiwan.

 

Taiwan, Chinese coast, and that pesky 110 miles of water. Image by CIA, public domain.

Taiwan, Chinese coast, and that
pesky 110 miles of water.
Image by CIA, public domain.

 

One might wonder why, since the Maoist regime in Beijing was so easily able to invade and occupy Tibet, wouldn’t they do the same with Taiwan?

The answer is water – about 110 miles of it. That’s the distance from the mainland shores to the beaches in Taiwan. The Red Army did not require a navy to invade and occupy Tibet. Invading Taiwan, on the other hand, would require a strong enough navy, and China does not quite have that yet. They are working on it. For decades, Communist China has consistently declared its intent to “reunite” Taiwan “by force, if necessary.” So far, the threats have not caused the Taiwanese to surrender their freedom to Beijing. When the KMT decided to move closer to the communist regime the Taiwanese voters threw them out.

So what do the election results mean for Taiwan’s Western Pacific neighbors?

For South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Viet Nam and Brunei, it’s good news. All of them have grown weary of Communist China’s increasingly aggressive policy. Taiwan’s increasing acquiescence to Beijing had been a worrying development for them.

What does it mean for the United States of America?

For the moment, the reaction in the US has been quiet relief. In diplomatic terms, here is the official US response:

“We share with the Taiwan people a profound interest in the continuation of cross-Strait peace and stability. We look forward to working with Dr. Tsai and Taiwan’s leaders of all parties to advance our many common interests and further strengthen the unofficial relationship between the United States and the people of Taiwan.”

Leave it to the folks at Foggy Bottom to simultaneously use the terms “profound” and “unofficial” when taking a “stand.” Or would that be a “non-stand?”

Diplomatic ambiguity aside, US leaders, albeit at the pace of a disabled snail, have come to realize that China has, in fact, been telling the truth for the last sixty-six years concerning its aggressive intentions, and that even the government in Beijing occasionally speaks the truth.

Hard core Beijing-lovers in Washington have fallen on hard times. Their cash is still welcome, but they are as out-of-fashion as integrity inside the Washington Beltway. In practical terms, the US government will continue to pretend to believe that fair and friendly cooperation with Communist China is possible. In the meantime, the US will allow a dribble of military aid to flow to Taiwan and the Philippines. Relations with Viet Nam will improve, and the US will send that country token military aid. The cost of the PR photo shoots in Viet Nam heralding in the new cooperation will be greater than the value of the equipment we send them.

In my view, the election results in Taiwan are good news. Let us hope that for the sake of the people of Taiwan, and for the sake of everyone in the Western Pacific, the DPP will use its power to truly represent the democratic will of the people of Taiwan.

 

Venezuelan Political Opera — Calling for a Coup

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Opera is best enjoyed in an opera hall. Sadly, a majority of the world’s population has only experienced “opera” in the form of national and local governments. The performances are always expensive, the performers are usually shrill, and the opera is rarely satisfying. Government as government, as opposed to government as opera, would be nice, but overall, we humans are not quite there yet. In Venezuela, the government opera just became more contentious.

 

 

The current opera in Venezuela, Nicolas the Great Saves the People, is actually a sequel to the previous opera, which starred part-time clown and full-time dictator Hugo Chavez in his classic, When I Grow Up I Want To Be Like Fidel Castro. Chavez’s inability to sing a convincing tune and his skill at generating poverty combined to create low international ratings for his production.

Chavez, a.k.a. eso hijo de puta, came to power in Venezuela on April 14, 2003, campaigning on the tried and true “defeat poverty with socialism” platform. As promised, he instituted a socialist system in Venezuela similar to Cuba’s, and like Cuba, the socialist reforms led to a steep increase in poverty.

A glance at history explains how a poorly performing clown like Chavez ever took power. The colorful succession of incompetent and corrupt clowns that ruled before him never used Venezuela’s oil wealth to help the people of Venezuela. That made it easy for Chavez to sell the nearly universally discredited socialist revolutionary scam. The fact that he was able to peddle his scam was an indication of how disgusted the voters of Venezuela were with his predecessors.

In true comic opera fashion, Chavez managed to increase poverty while his oil rich nation enjoyed very high oil prices. His disastrous handling of Venezuela’s economy was high drama, breathtaking in concept and scale.

 

 

Finally, in early 2013, Chavez managed one award-worthy scene in his long and disastrous opera. He died.

Officially, he died on March 5, 2013. Unofficially, he died a month or so earlier than the announced date. His death was apparently concealed to allow his handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro, time to consolidate his position as the new dictator.

Maduro’s qualifications are twofold.

He did a stint as vice president during which, like most vice presidents, he did nothing. He also served as foreign minister for Venezuela. In that role, he managed to leave his distinctive mark. In keeping with dictator Chavez’s basic agenda, Maduro further destroyed relations with most of the New World’s nations while trying to forge closer relationships with Cuba and Libya.

The Cuba-Venezuela relationship can best be defined as, “Thanks for the free oil. You kind of suck, but we won’t tell anybody.” That might not sound like much in the way of international communist fraternal love, but it’s safe to consider the Cuba-Venezuela relationship to be the bright spot in modern Venezuelan foreign policy.

So, how have Nicolas Maduro and his wife Cilia “La Generalissima” Flores done with their vast power over Venezuela?

As promised, they continued their beloved dead leader’s policies. The results have continued to be disastrous for the people of Venezuela . . . It’s so easy to forget the people when critiquing political opera. In all operas, it’s about the people on the stage. The audience is expected to shut up and like it.

 

Cilia "La Generalissima" Maduro Flores Image by Cancilleria del Ecuador, wikimedia commons.

Cilia “La Generalissima” Maduro Flores
Image by Cancilleria del Ecuador, wikimedia commons.

 

When Chavez did Venezuela a favor by dying, Maduro ignored the constitution of Venezuela by sidestepping the President of the National Assembly and declaring himself President. The Chavez-stacked federal courts backed him.

On April 14, 2013, Maduro won a presidential election. By that time, the Hugo Chavez political opera was wearing thin with the increasingly hungry Venezuelan people. Maduro beat the opposition candidate by approximately 1.5%. There were widespread allegations of vote rigging and voter intimidation that would make polling locations in Philadelphia look friendly by comparison. However, once again, the courts backed Maduro.

Thus far, Maduro has demonstrated that he is not really just a cheap Chavez copy in two ways.

First, he created a “Ministry of Supreme Happiness.” Perhaps he just doesn’t like his North Korean fraternal brother Kim 3.0 always winning the Biggest Jackass award.

Second, Maduro turned up the volume on the anti-USA rhetoric. If anyone was wondering, Venezuela is an economic hellhole, rapidly approaching North Korean standards, because the US government is evil. I halfway agree with the “government is evil” theory, but few Venezuelans think that the US government is running Venezuela.

How few? Last week, elections for the National Assembly resulted in Maduro’s Opera Troupe being knocked out of the majority.

In fact, the opposition now enjoys a supermajority in the National Assembly, which it holds by a single vote. This loss of majority does not bode well for the Maduro Opera. For one thing, the supermajority can rewrite laws and easily override any veto by the president with as little as 60% agreement of the assembly. They can also fire federal judges.

Maduro has responded to this threat to the socialist agenda by testing the waters for a political coup.

On Saturday, December 13, he publicly instructed the military of Venezuela to prepare for a struggle to defend the socialist government. The Opera is getting louder in Caracas, but the tenor sings poorly. In my view the Venezuelan military will not cooperate with Maduro if he attempts to suppress the National Assembly. In fact, if he calls the military to arms, it might well respond by putting a bullet in his head and in the head of his wife Cilia.

What does all this mean for Venezuela?

My best guess is that Maduro’s opera is nearly over. The National Assembly will have to contend with every imaginable roadblock by the Maduro gang, but Maduro’s lousy performance has created a substantial well of determination in the Venezuelan people.

Unfortunately for the people of Venezuela, neither the new National Assembly nor Maduro’s eventual replacement will perform any more efficiently than the US Congress or the US President. But they will do a better job than the Chavez-Maduro regime has done. Venezuela will not get much worse.

Venezuelans have seen their darkest hour. Their future will not be a bed of roses, but it will be better, and that matters – to Venezuela and to anyone who cares about its people.

Let the new Opera begin.

Vetting Syrian Refugees — The Practical Issues

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

News and social media are awash with opinions and pseudo-facts about the Syrian refugees. One fact, though, is that hundreds of thousands of people are caught in a desperate situation between a Europe that is closing its doors and a country back home that is shattered into warring factions, some of which are sponsored by Titans with their own agendas.

As Westerners, we, as nations, strive for open hearts and open minds, and we want to help these desperate people. However, another fact we know is that thousands of jihadis are mingled among the desperate, exploiting this opportunity to position themselves in the West.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. How do we tell the difference? How is it possible to vet refugees with no recorded past?

 

Intelligence, Terrorism, and Asymmetric Warfare Expert Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Mohammed Faqwahdi al-Lansingi a.k.a. Sheik Mo

Intelligence, Terrorism, and Asymmetric Warfare Expert
Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Mohammed Faqwahdi al-Lansingi
a.k.a. Sheik Mo

 

We decided to pose the refugee dilemma to our staff intelligence, terrorism, and asymmetric warfare specialist, Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Muhammad Faqwahdi al-Lansingi, a.k.a. Sheikh Mo. Mo, a retired terrorist himself, knows how to see things through the eyes of the enemy. Jay tracked him down to his new mobile communications and command center to question him about the Syrian refugee situation.

The following is Jay’s actual conversation with Sheik Mo . . .

Sheikh Mo, that’s quite the antenna array on the roof of that lovely catering van you have there.

You know, Jay, with this van, I can talk to people all the way in Pakistan or Gaza without paying for a phone call. And I get all my favorite football games. There’s a big game in Qatar this weekend.

Isn’t that the New York City FBI building behind you?

Yes, I sell to them all day. This is a great location. So many federal employees around here. They love my food. I have health food, too. Sugar free, fat free, gluten free, caffeine free, whatever free you want, I get for you. No problem.

Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind. I can’t help but wonder, don’t any of the FBI folks or the DHS people ask you about those antennas? I mean you’ve got that vast array right at Federal Plaza….

 

Sheik Mo's catering van at Federal Plaza, NYC

Sheik Mo’s catering van at Federal Plaza, NYC

 

Antennas? They ask me all the time, “Can you get the Jets games? Can you pick up the hockey games?” They all want to know the scores, so I give them the scores from all the games. It’s great for business. I can always tell which FBI agent has a gambling problem. When I tell them the score, they turn white and choke on the falafel. I like these FBI guys. They are great customers. And so polite. They always tip.

That’s very thoughtful of you . . . Our readers need your expert input. What do you think about the Paris attacks? Many in the West are pointing to them as a reason why Syrian refugees should be refused.

Wow, those attacks were so stupid! Those ISIS people are so yesterday, like thirteen centuries behind everybody else. In the PLO, we learned that random bombings are no good. You start bombing planes and cities, and you end up eating cruise missile for breakfast. ISIS looks like they are not happy until everyone hates them. Now they are not just losing ground in Syria, they are losing ground in Europe. The way they are going, they won’t even be able to sleep in the Libyan desert. I think they might be first Islamic terror group to have to move their headquarters to the South Pole.

What do you think about the President’s plan to bring more Syrian refugees to the US?

Well, you know, I like Obama. In the last elections, I voted for him twenty times back in Lansing.

I’m sure he appreciates your support, but you should only vote once in each election.

I’m sorry, but you know me. I love this whole democracy thing. I love voting. It’s like an addiction. I need a Voters Anonymous . . . But this Syrian refugee thing sounds a little strange to me.

It’s kind of funny, everything they are saying about “vetting.” They must not know what Syria looks like today. Are they going to call the Syrian police and ask what record the guy has? Who do they think is going to answer the phone? That’s so crazy.

And UN is supposed to interview the refugees first . . . Didn’t the UN just put Saudi Arabia on Human Rights Council? The same Saudi Arabia that funded those ISIS amateurs in the first place? That UN can’t tell a jihadi from a goat in a tutu.

Then the FBI and everybody else is going to interview each one? Like they say here in New York, “Forget about it.”

The government says it will take more than eighteen months. It takes eighteen months to get no reliable information from Syria? They should pay me to do it. For half price, I get them the same “no information” in five minutes. But you Americans think it’s good when the government is slow. It makes you think they are doing something. It makes you think they are so busy. It’s crazy.

I like these FBI people. I am making friends with lots of them. Very nice people, but what are they going to do in an interview? They ask the guy if he is terrorist, he says “No.” Big deal. Remember those kids from Chechnya, the ones that bombed Boston? Russia told the FBI they were terrorists. The FBI talks to them and says “No problem, nice guys.” But then you have big problem in Boston.

So, good luck with all this “vetting” business. I just don’t see how this is going to work. And anyway, there are already enough catering vans in the United States. We don’t need more!

Maybe I should add Mobile Vetting Service to my menu….

Mo, it’s always interesting getting your expert opinions on terrorist issues. Good luck with your lovely catering van, and please stop voting. You are not a US citizen.

Ok, ok. Just for you, my friend, no more voting. But ask your bigshot government friends if I can get in on this “vetting” business. Tell them I have friends in Syria. I give them half off just because they know you.

I’ll be sure to mention it to them, but I have no close friends at the FBI. I think you are closer to them than I am. Thanks for all your insight. I’ll talk to you again soon. Best of luck to you.

OK, Jay. Have a nice Thanksgiving.

You too, Mo.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

And there are the issues. We encourage people to remember that compassion and caution are not listed as opposites in the dictionary. It is only by coming out of entrenched positions and facing reality that we will be able to handle this humanitarian crisis. The reality is that desperate people are in need, and that evil people, whose goal is to destroy us, are seeded among them. The reality is that there actually are no ways to verify the difference. What risk are we, as a nation, willing to take in our compassion?

ISIS Attacks Paris — A Major Mistake

Bayard & Holmes
~ Jay Holmes

On the night of November 13, 2015, cowardly criminals from the ISIS gang carried out coordinated attacks against innocent people in Paris, France. So far, 136 people are confirmed dead, and many more remain wounded.

 

Memorial at Bataclan Image by Annie Harada Viot, public domain.

Memorial at Bataclan
Image by Annie Harada Viot, public domain.

 

Before examining the effects of the attacks beyond the casualties, Piper and I wish to offer our respectful sympathy to all the families that lost loved ones in the attacks. We also wish to assure the people of France that civilized people throughout the world stand in solidarity with them.

It is easy to see why reasonable people might view the Paris Attacks as a “success” by ISIS.

ISIS got attention, and its vainglorious leaders lust for that. They hurt France and, by extension, all French allies and sympathizers. The attacks were a tactical success in that, while they likely killed far fewer people than the ISIS head-monkeys had hoped for, they killed more than enough to justify their efforts in tactical terms.

All this notwithstanding, I view the Paris attacks as a gigantic failure on the part of ISIS.

That’s because the violence in France does not, and will not, support ISIS’s goal of extending its control over more Middle East territory. It certainly doesn’t get the group closer to its stated goal of worldwide Islamic rule.

The Paris attacks have already resulted in increased French air strikes against ISIS assets in the Middle East. As for ISIS assets in Europe, France and other European nations have redoubled their efforts in rounding up the ISIS vermin that have been roaming free across that continent. If you are an agent of ISIS in Europe, your life is more difficult this week than it was last week. Those seventy-two virgins are closer than you think.

This does not mean that ISIS is incapable of carrying out further attacks in the West.

It is never difficult for criminal enterprises to recruit the losers in any society. But since the latest attacks, Europeans will be more willing to tolerate increased police activity and higher military budgets. Those higher military budgets, coupled with increased Western willpower to use military force against ISIS, will equate to a higher rate of vaporization of ISIS thugs across the Middle East. If anyone disagrees with this theory, please note the ISIS casualties these last few days in Syria and North Africa. It’s not a good time to be waving an ISIS flag.

So then, why would a group that claims to be the rightful rulers of all the people on the planet be so unwise as to carry out the Paris attacks?

One critical element of the answer is stupidity. No sane, intelligent person would join ISIS, let alone try to lead it. Lots of types of individuals might join ISIS, but one of the common traits they share is an inability to reasonably perceive reality. Even those that join because they wish to rise in personal status from unemployed dishwasher to “badass terrorist gun slinger” must be intellectually deficient in order to volunteer for life as an ISIS gofer. Being the lead lowlife in a group like ISIS is, at best, a short-term thrill. Being at the bottom of the lowlife heap must be hellish. We are not dealing with a collection of 25,000 brilliant scholars. We are dealing with heartless, bloodthirsty idiots. And they will fail.

When ISIS first came to the forefront of Western media, some analysts predicted that they would be very difficult to defeat. I stated openly that with any real effort by the West, ISIS could be sent back to the caves and sewers that they crawled out of. Some observers viewed the well-publicized parades of black clad jihadists waving ISIS flags as a terrifying new event. I viewed them as an ideal opportunity for target practice for Western and Middle Eastern militaries. A few (very few) experienced military analysts scoffed at the notion that ISIS could be defeated with less than years of major military effort including thousands of US “boots on the ground.”

Thus far, with minimal effort by the US and far less serious efforts by a few of our allies, the ISIS Middle East blitzkrieg has been halted.

Keep in mind that Western efforts have amounted to airstrikes against ISIS targets, pathetically small assistance to the Kurds, a mammoth infusion of cash and arms to that vaguely defined troupe of hapless clowns that we so generously call “the Iraqi Army,” and minimal efforts at helping independent Syrian rebels. We will not at this time delve into any possible covert actions that may have occurred against ISIS.

Thus far, the airstrikes have been partially effective.

Some in the West have called for a more robust bombing campaign against ISIS targets, but that’s a topic for another discussion. The under-armed, outmanned Kurds, now assisted by a few poorly-armed Yazidis, have been very successful in their struggle against their well-armed ISIS opponents. The fact that the Yazidis and Kurds are willing and able to cooperate with each other is further bad news for the despised ISIS. Our wildly expensive efforts with the Iraqi Army have resulted in little more than accidentally supplying ISIS with weapons, ammo, and equipment. Our efforts at assisting Syrian rebels have yet to yield meaningful results. And yet, with such minimal effort by the West, ISIS has been stalled.

What about ISIS’s many friends across the Middle East?

They no longer have any. Thus far, the ISIS Middle East Foreign Policy Initiative has consisted of creating steadfast enemies in Jordan, infuriating the Egyptian government, and declaring war on Hezbollah in Lebanon, thus earning the always generous hatred of the Iranian Shia junta. All of this has been done without them initiating their most important battle – their “coming war” against Israel.

Even by the low standards of ISIS logic, the Paris attacks were a foolish move. ISIS’s future has never been bright. This week, it’s dimmer still.

Vive la France! Vive la liberté!

À la ferme porcine avec ISIS!

Defense Industry UFOs on the Home Front!

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

With so many deadly conflicts brewing around the globe, it’s easy to lose sight of less spectacular defense news at home. Changes in the defense industry and their impacts on taxpayers are not likely to generate front page headlines with so many air strikes, battles and terrorist strikes filling the daily news reports. But sometimes, the bomb-free battles inside the Beltway can impact our national security more than anything that will ever happen in Syria or Ukraine.

 

Actual photo of Lockheed and Sikorsky in an intimate embrace.

Actual photo of Lockheed and Sikorsky in an intimate embrace.

 

One particular event in the defense industry might generate more impacts then were intended by the defense contractors involved. Lockheed Martin’s pending purchase of Sikorsky Aircraft for nine billion dollars has set off a ripple effect in the US defense community.

Last week, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Frank Kendall stated that in the future, he would seek to deter consolidation of top tier defense contractors. Kendall explained that, “Mergers such as this, combined with significant financial resources of the largest defense companies, strategically position the acquiring companies to dominate large parts of the defense industry.”

I can understand Kendall’s concerns. With the current number of large defense contractors, we are paying high prices for our high-tech military gear. In some cases, we are paying high prices for very low-tech gear, as well. Having fewer contractors might lead to less innovation and higher prices.

Kendall’s comments only surprised me because he was open and frank. In the Pentagon, that can be more dangerous than vacationing in Syria.

I am guessing that Kendall must have reason to believe that the White House shares his concerns. Not surprisingly, his comments generated what we might refer to as Unsourced Flying Opinions. To save space, let’s just call them UFOs.

A variety of “defense analysts” have been responding loudly to anyone who will listen that Kendall is creating “uncertainty” in the defense industry. According to some analysts, since large defense contractors will be uncertain about the viability of future mergers, they will be impaired in doing business.

Perhaps they will, and perhaps that’s a good thing. There has been all too much “certainty” in the defense contracting market. Certainly the manufacturing of complex high-tech defense items such as the F-35 fighter or the Gerald Ford supercarrier require a high degree of certainty once production starts, but the selection process should be an open field where the best ideas and greatest efficiencies can compete for contracts.

As Kendall pointed out, “With size comes power, and the department’s experience with large defense contractors is that they are not hesitant to use this power for corporate advantage. The trend toward fewer and larger prime contractors has the potential to affect innovation, limit the supply base, pose entry barriers to small, medium, and large businesses, and ultimately reduce competition, resulting in higher prices to be paid by the American taxpayer in order to support our war fighters.”

With so much money at stake, taxpayers should expect an increase in UFOs concerning defense spending and any further restrictions on defense contractor mergers. When reading the opinions of defense or national security “think tanks,” it’s a good idea to find out who funds them. You can bet that think tanks that are funded by large defense contractors are not going to think highly of Frank Kendall. As a taxpayer, I am starting to grow fond of him.

So far, the Department of Justice is wisely staying out of the debate on future defense acquisitions. Kendall has indicated that the Pentagon will work with Congress to set new policies governing defense contractors. As much as I agree with Frank Kendall’s intent, I disagree with his optimism for possible congressional action. I can easily imagine the sound of industrial strength shredders in the basement of the Capital building as underpaid staffers work overtime handling all those proposed defense contractor rules. But that doesn’t mean that Kendall’s concerns won’t have a real impact.

Kendall and his cohorts in the Pentagon have one very large ace up their sleeve.

If you want to do business in the defense market, you need happy customers, and the biggest customer of all is the Pentagon. In theory, it is only one customer, but in practice, the Pentagon can block anything involving publicly funded research and technology from sale to foreign customers. That leaves large defense contractors with a very small list of customers.

So what does this quiet and largely unnoticed battle in the Beltway mean?

My best guess is that the Pentagon, with the approval of the White House, is simply saying that it will not allow the US defense market to be too heavily influenced by any single competitor. Getting action for something this complex and this political from Congress is unlikely. Getting a defense contract from an unhappy Pentagon is even less likely. Let’s give kudos to Frank Kendall for standing up for the taxpayers and for national security.