Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Last Call For Sub-Tweeting Mayor Cranley

Cincinnati's mayoral race just got a bit more interesting as long-shot Democratic candidate Rob Richardson wants to not only run on expanding the city's streetcar program, long the bane of Mayor John Cranley's political existence, but he also wants to expand on Cincinnati's infamous abandoned subway system.

Mayoral candidate Rob Richardson Jr. has added four intriguing words to his campaign website: "Revive Cincinnati's subway system." 
Forward-thinking? Pandering? Unrealistic? Maybe all of the above. Regardless, the progressive Democrat wants to jump start the conversation about what – if any – role Cincinnati's unfinished and abandoned subway system could play in improving one of the nation's worst public transportation systems for connecting people to jobs. 
Richardson's campaign hatched the idea based on the fact 75,000 jobs in the region aren't accessible by public transportation, according to a 2015 study by the University of Cincinnati Economics Center. So why not take another look at the 2.2 miles of abandoned subway tunnels underneath Central Parkway? 
"The current infrastructure of the tunnel system provides a launching pad for this effort," said Danny O'Connor, Richardson's campaign manager. "We are confident that Cincinnatians are eager for legitimate and substantive investment in a variety of public transit options beyond the squabbling over the streetcar." 
As for paying to resume subway work, well, that's where Richardson is short on details. Construction stopped in 1929 amid rising costs, and it's difficult to determine what a cost to upgrade the tunnels would be, let alone burrowing on. For context, the two-mile Second Avenue Subway that opened in New York City this year cost $4.5 billion. 
"Rob plans to bring together several different constituencies – something he has always done – to determine how we can properly invest in the infrastructure and resources that are critically needed by thousands of Cincinnati residents," O'Connor said. "The reality, however, is that we will be assuming a $25.1 million budget deficit from the incumbent candidates in this race. Fixing that issue will be our first priority."

Well, if Robertson wanted to differentiate himself from Cranley in the primary election in two months, running on a huge expansion in the Queen City's mass transportation is definitely the tack to take.  As improbable as the plan is, the goal I'm hoping is a serious look at Cincinnati's terrible mass transit system, one of the worst in the country for a major US city, and one that just happens to have limited or no service to the area's black communities (looking at you, Cincy Bell Connector).

Subway or not, that's a problem that the next Mayor needs to work on, and I'm hoping Roberston at least makes that a major campaign issue this year, even if his subway plan is already sunk.  We've already got one of the worst transportation infrastructure problems in the country between our lousy mass transit and the Brent Spence Bridge, and it should be a top priority among voters.

We'll see how Cranley responds.

A Hostile Agency Environment

Trump regime EPA head Scott Pruitt is wasting no time stocking the top positions at the agency with GOP's leading climate change skeptics, and the damage they will cause future generations will be incalculable.

Mr. Pruitt has drawn heavily from the staff of his friend and fellow Oklahoma Republican, Senator James Inhofe, long known as Congress’s most prominent skeptic of climate science. A former Inhofe chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, will be Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff. Another former Inhofe staff member, Byron Brown, will serve as Mr. Jackson’s deputy. Andrew Wheeler, a fossil fuel lobbyist and a former Inhofe chief of staff, is a finalist to be Mr. Pruitt’s deputy, although he requires confirmation to the position by the Senate.

To friends and critics, Mr. Pruitt seems intent on building an E.P.A. leadership that is fundamentally at odds with the career officials, scientists and employees who carry out the agency’s missions. That might be a recipe for strife and gridlock at the federal agency tasked to keep safe the nation’s clean air and water while safeguarding the planet’s future. 
“He’s the most different kind of E.P.A. administrator that’s ever been,” said Steve J. Milloy, a member of the E.P.A. transition team who runs the website, which aims to debunk climate change. “He’s not coming in thinking E.P.A. is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Quite the opposite.” 
Gina McCarthy, who headed the E.P.A. under former President Barack Obama, said she too saw Mr. Pruitt as unique. “It’s fine to have differing opinions on how to meet the mission of the agency. Many Republican administrators have had that,” she said. “But here, for the first time, I see someone who has no commitment to the mission of the agency.” 

Pruitt is determined to turn the EPA into an Orwellian dark comedy, an agency that cares nothing for protecting the environment and in fact will be dedicated to exploiting it for corporate gain at every opportunity, not to mention putting the health and well-being of millions of Americans at risk. But it gets worse.

A pair of Trump campaigners from Washington State are also heading into senior positions at the E.P.A. Don Benton, a former Washington state senator who headed President Trump’s state campaign, will be the agency’s senior liaison with the White House. Douglas Ericksen, a current Washington state senator, is being considered as the regional administrator of the E.P.A.’s Pacific Northwest office. 
As a state senator, Mr. Ericksen has been active in opposing efforts to pass a state-level climate change law taxing carbon pollution. Last month, he invited Tony Heller, a climate denialist who blogs under the pseudonym Steven Goddard, to address a Washington State Senate committee on the costs of climate change policy. Mr. Heller’s blog says “global warming is the biggest fraud in science history.” 
“I think the reason both of these guys are being considered for this stuff is they were the only prominent elected officials in the state of Washington that were early supporters and organizers for Trump,” said Todd Donovan, a political scientist at Western Washington University. “No other state legislators were putting their necks out for Trump.”

On top of the EPA now being a joke, it's now a plum bureaucratic reward for those Republicans who jumped on the Trump train early in order to make big government paychecks at taxpayer expense. But that's the party of fiscal responsibility for you, right?  Ahh, but here's the fun part:

The agency’s policy agenda is snapping into focus: Last week, Mr. Trump signed an executive order directing Mr. Pruitt to begin the legal process of dismantling a major Obama-era regulation aimed at increasing the federal government’s authority over rivers, streams and wetlands in order to prevent water pollution. Also last week, Mr. Pruitt ordered the agency to walk back a program on collecting data on methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells. 
This week, Mr. Trump is expected to sign an executive order directing Mr. Pruitt to begin the legal process of unwinding Mr. Obama’s E.P.A. regulations aimed at curbing planet-warming pollution from coal-fired power plants, and Mr. Pruitt is expected to announce plans to begin to weaken an Obama-era rule mandating higher fuel economy standards. 
A draft White House budget blueprint proposes to slash the E.P.A. budget by about 24 percent, or $2 billion from its current level of $8.1 billion, and cut employee numbers by about 20 percent from its current staff of about 15,000. 
Agency employees say morale has already been damaged. After working for years to draft climate change regulations under the Obama administration, many of those same career scientists and lawyers will be ordered to go back and undo them.

Undoing the entire Obama environmental agenda was always a chief goal of the GOP, and now it looks like they will completely erase 44's entire legacy on climate change and the environment.  All of it, gone.  But her emails, right?

I don't think our grandkids will forgive us, either. New tag, as I expect I'll be writing a lot about his crimes against the planet: Scott Pruitt.

To Whom The Wiki-Benefit?

Jon Fingas over at Engadget has details of WikiLeaks' latest package of alleged CIA technical documents, revealing tools the agency reportedly uses to get around encryption and to spy on people. The "Level 7" documents come just a few days after Trump's paranoid tirade that Obama had Trump Tower bugged and once again it's Julian Assange's outfit that comes riding the Trump regime's rescue.

WikiLeaks just ignited another powder keg. Julian Assange's outfit has posted the first of a string of CIA leaks, nicknamed Vault 7, that purports to reveal the agency's "entire hacking capacity." The information is said to have escaped an "isolated" secure network at the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Virginia, and indicates that the organization has far-reaching abilities to snoop on modern technology... including encrypted apps that are supposed to be tough to crack.

According to WikiLeaks, the CIA has horded a slew of zero day (that is, unpatched) exploits that let it infiltrate a slew of platforms, including current desktop and mobile platforms, network routers, smart TVs and antivirus software. Notably, the CIA is capable of bypassing the encryption for secure chat apps like Confide, Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp -- the agency compromises the phone and intercepts message traffic before encryption kicks in. It's not as significant as cracking the encryption itself (these apps are still safer), but it's still noteworthy. Also, the mobile teams have reportedly produced malware that can compromise Android and iOS devices that run or have run "presidential Twitter accounts" -- a particular problem for the current Commander-in-Chief.

Other infiltration methods are similarly sneaky. An attack against Samsung smart TVs, built in tandem with the UK's MI5 agency, quietly leaves a set turned on so that it can record conversations like a giant wiretap device. And when the CIA needs physical access to a device, it sends an agent out with a USB drive that grabs data from a PC while a decoy app runs in the foreground. Malware is designed to avoid any fingerprints that would lead back to the CIA or its partners, and even the infection patterns are meant to throw people off the scent. Code can lurk in a device for years.

The leak also goes into some of the organizational structure of the CIA's digital surveillance efforts, including some security concerns. It notes that the US consulate in Frankfurt doubles as a base for CIA hackers targeting Europe, the Middle East and Africa, giving them freedom to travel throughout much of Europe once they arrive. However, it also appears that the agency's malware, command and control tools and listening post software are all labeled as unclassified -- there's not much officials can do if it gets out into the wild, which it clearly has given the leak. There's a similar worry that the CIA's propensity to hog zero day exploits is violating the government's Vulnerabilities Equities Process, which promises that the government will share flaws with companies on a continuous basis.

So again, a whole bunch of CIA tools, techniques, and tradecraft just happen to show up on WikiLeaks within hours of when the world starts thinking that the Trump regime has all but confirmed wrongdoing with Russia.  Suddenly now the story is back to the eeeeeeeeeevil intelligence community and how noble patriot Trump is right to consider them a problem. 

It also happens to blow yet another giant hole in America's cyber-counterintelligence capabilities just as stories about CIA cyberwar with North Korea surface and how effective the CIA has been at stopping Pyongyang from getting too far down the road of nuke technology.  That just got thrown in the trash can overnight.

And finally, please note the documents claim the CIA can make their cyber-snooping look like anyone but the CIA is behind it, which of course has both Trumpies and Moscow screaming that the entire Trump-Russia kerfuffle is in fact a giant false flag operation by Obama to harm Great Patriot Friend Donald Trump.

And lo and behold, now people are saying "Well maybe Trump wasn't crazy after all."

Funny how that exact coincidental timing works when Trump needs "evidence" of his conspiracy theory, and it magically appears once again thanks to his good friend Julian Assange.


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