Saturday, October 22, 2016

Last Call For Rigger Mortis

Donald Trump's dangerous rhetoric is now openly threatening to ignite a crisis in confidence among the American voter weeks before the election even happens.

Donald Trump has repeatedly called this year's presidential election rigged and has coyly said "I will keep you in suspense” on whether he would accept a Hillary Clinton victory, but many Republicans are less circumspect, according to a new poll.

Only half of Republicans would accept Clinton, the Democratic nominee, as their president. And if she wins, nearly 70 percent said it would be because of illegal voting or vote rigging, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday.

Conversely, seven out of 10 Democrats said they would accept a Trump victory and less than 50 percent would attribute it to illegal voting or vote rigging, the poll showed.

The findings come after repeated statements by Trump that the media and the political establishment have rigged the election against him. He also has made a number of statements encouraging his supporters to fan out on Election Day to stop ineligible voters from casting ballots.

The U.S. government has accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organizations and state election systems.

Clinton has said she will accept the results of the election no matter the outcome.

The poll showed there is broad concern across the political spectrum about voting issues such as ineligible voters casting ballots, voter suppression, and the actual vote count, but Republicans feel that concern more acutely.

For example, nearly eight out of 10 Republicans are concerned about the accuracy of the final vote count. And though generally they believe they will be able to cast their ballot, only six out of 10 are confident their vote will be counted accurately.

Among Democrats, about six out of 10 are concerned about the vote count. They, too, believe they wi1l be able to cast their ballot, but eight out of 10 are confident their vote will be counted accurately.

The problem with this idiotic "both-siderism" is that there's very real evidence that Democratic voter suppression is happening in red states and the fact that this will be the first presidential election since the Roberts Supreme Court neutered the Voting Rights Act, and the latter especially will have serious consequences.

This year's presidential election will be the first in a half-century without the significant presence of federal observers at polling places. That's because in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, and when the court wiped out that section, the statute that provided for election observers went, too.

The landmark decision in Shelby County v. Holder doesn't mean civil rights officials are totally disarmed. The Justice Department will still send out "hundreds" of "monitors" to oversee Election Day compliance. But the number is smaller than it was before, and monitors can only enter the polling place if local officials agree. Observers, by contrast, had a statutory right to be inside polling places. They were trained specifically for the task. There also were many more of them, and they had far more authority than monitors.

"We can't deny the costs of Shelby County" in terms of enforcement powers, says Vanita Gupta, assistant attorney general for civil rights.

"The hope is that just by having the presence of the federal government at polling sites, even if we may be slightly more diminished or spread thinner, that our sheer presence has sufficient deterrent effect and gives voters the confidence that they need to feel like the process is fair," she adds.

Gupta says she expects federal monitors to fan out over half the states on Election Day.

None of these monitors, however, will have the automatic legal clout that observers did.
Unlike monitors, observers typically were stationed inside polling places to watch partisan poll watchers and to make sure rights were enforced. They would also verify that the number of voters jibed with final vote tallies. Indeed, they could even go inside the polling booth to make sure assistors were accurately recording the votes of people who needed help casting their ballots.

Gerry Hebert, who served in the voting section of the Justice Department for 21 years, says the presence of federal monitors is "good as far as it goes, but it doesn't really replace that kind of on-site complete oversight within the polling place."

So yeah, that's what the real issue is, Donald.

Scion Of The Times

Donald Trump, a man who managed to go bankrupt running casinos and probably couldn't figure out how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without burning down three neighborhoods in the process, is finding out the hard way that being an orange racist snack product is in fact bad for branding.

Amidst reports that occupancy rates at Trump Hotels have slipped this election season, the company has announced that new brand hotels will no longer bear the Trump name.

The newest line of luxury hotels, geared towards millennials, will be called Scion, the company said.

“We wanted a name that would be a nod to the Trump family and to the tremendous success it has had with its businesses, including Trump Hotels, while allowing for a clear distinction between our luxury and lifestyle brands,” Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger said in a statement.

Although Trump Hotels has said the new name has nothing to do with the eponymous businessman’s presidential campaign, empty rooms at the hotels have caused officials “to reduce rates during the peak season," according to New York Magazine.

Nightly rates at the newly-opened Trump International Hotel in D.C. plummeted below $500 while practically every other five-star property was sold out for the International Monetary Fund conference two weeks ago. And after his remarks about Mexican immigrants, two celebrity chefs backed out of their contracts to open a restaurant in the hotel.

According to Hipmunk, bookings at Trump Hotels plummeted 59 percent during the first half of 2016 and data from Foursquare shows a 17 percent drop in foot traffic at Trump properties since June 2015, when the reality TV star announced his presidential bid.

Trump Hotels, however, refutes the analysis.

“Our business at Trump Hotels is stronger than ever and we are incredibly excited about the future of Scion, the newest brand in our hotel portfolio,” Ivanka Trump, who is the executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the brand, said in a statement.

“The data reported by both Hipmunk and Foursquare is manipulated to appear meaningful, when, in reality, the information is inconsequential and does not provide an accurate representation of our performance,” a Trump Hotels spokesperson told Travel + Leisure.

The hotel occupancy data is also rigged, apparently.  Who knew. What you do know is which hotels to avoid in the future, right?

A Series Of (Clogged) Tubes

If you're like me, you had to deal with serious problem getting on some of your favorite internet sites on Friday because of a massive attack on the net's ability to handle and route web site requests.  It would be like if all the East Coast's traffic lights went from green to red and back to green every couple of seconds, because they all got conflicting commands to change the lights.  Nobody would be able to get anywhere, and that's what happened with Dyn's DNS servers and internet traffic 24 hours ago.

Dyn offers Domain Name System (DNS) services, essentially acting as an address book for the Internet. DNS is a system that resolves the web addresses we see every day, like, into the IP addresses needed to find and connect with the right servers so browsers can deliver requested content, like the story you’re reading right now. A DDoS attack overwhelms a DNS server with lookup requests, rendering it incapable of completing any. That’s what makes attacking DNS so effective; rather than targeting individual sites, an attacker can take out the entire Internet for any end user whose DNS requests route through a given server.

“DNS registrars typically provide authoritative DNS services for thousands or tens of thousands of domain names, and so if there is a service-impacting event the collateral damage footprint can be very large,” says Roland Dobbins, a principal engineer at Arbor Networks, a security firm that specializes in DDoS attacks. 
DDoS is a particularly effective type of attack on DNS services because in addition to overwhelming servers with malicious traffic, those same servers also have to deal with automatic re-requests, and even just well-meaning users hitting refresh over and over to summon up an uncooperative page.

Now, Internet backbone companies like Dyn deal with these attacks all the time.  But this was an attack of such incredible scale that it took even them by surprise.

The overall picture is still somewhat hazy, but more information has become available as the day has progressed. Initial reports indicate that the attack was part of a genre of DDoS that infects Internet of Things devices (think webcams, DVRs, routers, etc.) all over the world with malware. Once infected, those Internet-connected devices become part of a botnet army, driving malicious traffic toward a given target. The source code for one of these types of botnets, called Mirai, was recently released to the public, leading to speculation that more Mirai-based DDoS attacks might crop up. Dyn said on Friday evening that the security firms Flashpoint and cloud services provider Akamai detected Mirai bots driving much, but not necessarily all, of the traffic in the attacks. Similarly, Dale Drew, the chief security officer of Internet backbone company Level 3, says that his company sees evidence of their involvement.

So America's internet-enabled devices, from cameras to DVRs to baby monitors to thermostats and lighting, are all small computers able to serve as unwilling hosts in an army of devices that can send these requests to flood the internet's traffic cops, and America just hasn't been thinking about how many of these devices there are, or how to secure them from malware that recruits them as a massive network of attackers.  The problem of course is that this scenario shouldn't have taken Dyn by surprise at all:

There’s also a potential motive to use a Mirai hack against Dyn, or at least a certain irony in it. The company’s principal data analyst, Chris Baker, wrote about these types of IoT-based attacks just yesterday in a blog post titled“What Is the Impact On Managed DNS Operators?”. It appears he has his answer. And that all DNS services, and their customers, should be on notice.

And the notice is "We failed.  Do better.  The next attacks will be coming."  The reality is that expecting American consumers to upgrade the firmware on their internet-enabled toasters is exactly what led to Friday's event, because the companies selling "the Internet of Things" aren't selling them with any protections.  And we're going to be dealing with cleaning that up for quite some time.

Pants On Fire Time Again

It's actually kind of refreshing to see an awful political analogy from the Village these days that doesn't involve Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, but this one from the WSJ's James Taranto may be one of the all-time duds ever misfired as he compares Obamacare to...exploding cell phones?

Outside of politics, perhaps the worst new-product launch of 2016 was the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Released in August, it was recalled twice and finally withdrawn from the market last week, all because the device has a tendency to catch fire or explode.

It’s an apt analogy for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as ObamaCare—and that’s not our opinion but that of President Obama himself. Here’s the president in a speech yesterday at Miami Dade College in Florida: 
The point is, now is not the time to move backwards on health care reform. Now is the time to move forward. The problems that may have arisen from the Affordable Care Act is [sic] not because government is too involved in the process. The problem is, is that we have not reached everybody and pulled them in. And think about it. When one of these companies comes out with a new smartphone and it had a few bugs, what do they do? They fix it. They upgrade—unless it catches fire, and they just—then they pull it off the market. But you don’t go back to using a rotary phone. You don’t say, well, we’re repealing smartphones—we’re just going to do the dial-up thing. That’s not what you do.

It turns out ObamaCare compares unfavorably even by that analogy. Several years ago this columnist switched our TV and internet service to Verizon Fios, the fiber-optic service offered by the company whose local operation was long ago known as New York Telephone. Signing up for Fios, it turned out, also entailed giving up traditional copper-wire analog phone service in favor of the newfangled digital kind.

We hadn’t used a rotary phone since childhood, but we happen to own an antique one. This morning we plugged it into the wall and attempted to dial a number. It took a long time, as you have to dial 11 digits now even for a local call—but it worked. If you like your phone, you can keep your phone (save for the Note 7). Verizon 1, ObamaCare 0. 

Well, if you think a national health care exchange is like making a phone call, sure, Taranto has a point.  He goes on to cherry-pick and complain about the parts of Obamacare that haven't come to pass yet, mainly because individual GOP governors have done everything they can to make sure the system fails, with the stated goal being that enough broken, badly running GOP spit and bailing wire nightmares will cause the whole health care system to collapse.

They don't really have a plan B.

That would be the correct analogy to the Samsung Note 7.

But we could instead talk about the tens of millions who have insurance now and the fact that despite Republican sabotage, the plan is still covering more than 90% of Americans.

But sure, let's keep making lazy, silly, and ignorantly cutesy analogies about a guy the GOP has chosen to replace with an orange racist snack product covered in cat hair.  We should really trust the judgment of the folks who thought Donald Trump should be president, right?

Tell me another one.  Pants on fire.
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