Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Brazil Nuts, Con't

If you want to know where Trump's America is headed, pay close attention to where Brazil's new President Jair Bolsonaro is going as he takes office today.

Brazilians signaled a desire for a radical shift in the country’s course when they elected the far-right lawmaker Jair Bolsonaro as their next president in October.

It didn’t take long for profound changes to start taking hold.

In the weeks leading up to Mr. Bolsonaro’s swearing-in on Tuesday, his embrace of a conservative movement that rejects discussion of gender or sexual orientation in schools thrust classrooms to the front lines of culture wars.

Under his direction, Brazil pulled out of hosting the 2019 United Nations summit meeting on climate change and began backtracking from its role as a global exemplar of environmentally sustainable development.

And on the foreign policy front, Mr. Bolsonaro courted the United States and picked a fight with Cuba, which responded by rescinding a program that had sent Cuban doctors to remote corners of Brazil since 2013.

There is considerable uncertainty about how closely President Bolsonaro will resemble the gruff, indignant and uncompromising candidate who ran as a political outsider and pulled off a long-shot victory by promising to dismantle a culture of corruption and use draconian means to restore security.

All of this should sound very familiar.

“I would rather they murder 200,000 thugs,” the future president is seen saying about the police in a clip that is part of the expletive-laden video.

Over the weekend, Mr. Bolsonaro announced he would issue an executive order allowing civilians without a criminal record to purchase weapons to keep at home or work for self-protection.

The policy would mark a significant departure from Brazil’s onerous rules for gun ownership, and experts said it would probably exacerbate carnage in the country, which last year had a record 63,880 killings. A poll released on Sunday by the research firm Datafolha found that 61 percent of Brazilians were opposed to relaxing gun ownership rules.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s promises to ease weapons regulations have already meant brisk business for gun ranges as aficionados sign up for practice. They also boosted the stock price of Taurus Armas, Brazil’s main gun manufacturer.

Very familiar.

The image captured the high hopes Mr. Bolsonaro and his team have for closer ties with the United States: After Mr. Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo Bolsonaro wrapped up meetings at the White House during a November trip designed to lay the groundwork for a relationship, the president’s son wore a “Trump 2020” campaign hat.

The Trump administration has returned the praise, calling Mr. Bolsonaro a “like-minded” leader on whom Washington hopes to rely as it tries to curb China’s growing influence in the region and put more pressure on Venezuela’s authoritarian government.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will lead the American delegation at Mr. Bolsonaro’s swearing-in ceremony in Brasília.

That should tell you everything you need to know right there.  Trump showed Bolsonaro how to get to the top, now Bolsonaro will show Trump how to bring his enemies to the bottom.   Fascism is on the rise across the world, and America is on the wrong side of history.

So is Brazil.

Blackmail At The Speed Of Light

Companies still refuse to take cybersecurity seriously heading into 2019, and the results are exactly what you'd expect to happen.

On Monday, New Year’s Eve, a hacker group announced it had breached a law firm handling cases related to the September 11 attacks, and threatened to publicly release a large cache of related internal files unless their ransom demands were met.

The news is the latest public extortion attempt from the group known as The Dark Overlord, which has previously targeted a production studio working for Netflix, as well as a host of medical centres and private businessesacross the United States. The announcement also signals a slight evolution in The Dark Overlord’s strategy, which has expanded on leveraging the mediato exert pressure on victims, to now distributing its threats and stolen data in a wider fashion.

In its announcement published on Pastebin, The Dark Overlord points to several different insurers and legal firms, claiming specifically that it hacked Hiscox Syndicates Ltd, Lloyds of London, and Silverstein Properties.

“Hiscox Syndicates Ltd and Lloyds of London are some of the biggest insurers on the planet insuring everything from the smallest policies to some of the largest policies on the planet, and who even insured structures such as the World Trade Centers,” the announcement reads.

It is unclear what exact files the group has stolen, but it is trying to capitalize on conspiracy theories around the 9/11 attacks.

“We'll be providing many answers about 9.11 conspiracies through our 18.000 secret documents leak,” the group tweeted on Monday.

If there's one thing the Trump era has taught us, it's that the lawyers know everything, so if you need blackmail material, they're always a good place to start.

The hacking group published a small set of letters, emails and other documents that mention various law firms, as well as the Transport Security Administration (TSA) and Federal Aviation Administration (The TSA could not provide a statement in time for publication, and the FAA told Motherboard in an email it was investigating.) Those documents themselves appear to be fairly innocuous, but the group says it may release more.

In its extortion note, The Dark Overlord included a link for a 10GB archive of files it allegedly stole. The group also provided a link to this archive to Motherboard before publishing its announcement. The cache is encrypted, but the hackers are threatening to release the relevant decryption keys, unlocking different sets of files at a time, unless the victims pay the hackers an undisclosed ransom fee in Bitcoin.

“Pay the fuck up, or we're going to bury you with this. If you continue to fail us, we'll escalate these releases by releasing the keys, each time a Layer is opened, a new wave of liability will fall upon you,” the extortion note reads.

The Dark Overlord is also claiming to be offering to sell the data on a dark web hacking forum, and is attempting to blackmail individuals who may be included in the documents themselves.

“If you're one of the dozens of solicitor firms who was involved in the litigation, a politician who was involved in the case, a law enforcement agency who was involved in the investigations, a property management firm, an investment bank, a client of a client, a reference of a reference, a global insurer, or whoever else, you're welcome to contact our e-mail below and make a request to formally have your documents and materials withdrawn from any eventual public release of the materials. However, you'll be paying us,” the group’s post reads.

Good luck catching them, too.   Nothing has made internet crime more viable than the rise of cryptocurrency over the last five years.  Frankly, anyone enabling the spread of it basically deserves what will happen next.

A New Year Dawns, The Same Old Problems

And here we are in 2019.

This, my friends, is where things get bad.

The last two years of Trumpism has been neatly summed up by Adam Serwer in The Cruelty Is The Point.

We can hear the spectacle of cruel laughter throughout the Trump era. There were the border-patrol agents cracking up at the crying immigrant childrenseparated from their families, and the Trump adviser who delighted white supremacists when he mocked a child with Down syndrome who was separated from her mother. There were the police who laughed uproariously when the president encouraged them to abuse suspects, and the Fox News hosts mocking a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub massacre (and in the process inundating him with threats), the survivors of sexual assault protesting to Senator Jeff Flake, the women who said the president had sexually assaulted them, and the teen survivors of the Parkland school shooting. There was the president mocking Puerto Rican accents shortly after thousands were killed and tens of thousands displaced by Hurricane Maria, the black athletes protesting unjustified killings by the police, the women of the #MeToo movement who have come forward with stories of sexual abuse, and the disabled reporter whose crime was reporting on Trump truthfully. It is not just that the perpetrators of this cruelty enjoy it; it is that they enjoy it with one another. Their shared laughter at the suffering of others is an adhesive that binds them to one another, and to Trump.

Taking joy in that suffering is more human than most would like to admit. Somewhere on the wide spectrum between adolescent teasing and the smiling white men in the lynching photographs are the Trump supporters whose community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life.

The laughter undergirds the daily spectacle of insincerity, as the president and his aides pledge fealty to bedrock democratic principles they have no intention of respecting. The president who demanded the execution of five black and Latino teenagers for a crime they didn’t commit decrying “false accusations,” when his Supreme Court nominee stands accused; his supporters who fancy themselves champions of free speech meet references to Hillary Clinton or a woman whose only crime was coming forward to offer her own story of abuse with screams of “Lock her up!” The political movement that elected a president who wanted to ban immigration by adherents of an entire religion, who encourages police to brutalize suspects, and who has destroyed thousands of immigrant families for violations of the law less serious than those of which he and his coterie stand accused, now laments the state of due process.

This isn’t incoherent. It reflects a clear principle: Only the president and his allies, his supporters, and their anointed are entitled to the rights and protections of the law, and if necessary, immunity from it. The rest of us are entitled only to cruelty, by their whim. This is how the powerful have ever kept the powerless divided and in their place, and enriched themselves in the process.

We've seen that daily cruelty so far.

Now imagine America deep in the throes of another 2008-style Great Recession, and the Trump brain trust in charge of trying to fix it

The cruelty has been breathtaking up until this point, I agree.

Now I fear it will become exponentially worse.  Someone will have to "pay" when things start going very badly wrong in the lives of Trump supporters, when they feel the effects of the cruel reality that for the last two years have only been reserved for those people.

When the farms and ranches go under due to tariffs, and healthcare becomes completely unaffordable, and even the low-paying jobs start going away, then things get dangerous.

The rampaging id of the Trump voter has been largely contained.  But in an economic recession that we're heading into, all bets are off.

2019 is going to be the Year of Living Dangerously.
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