Patterico's Pontifications

12/28/2017

Russian Hacker: I Can Prove Kremlin Ordered DNC Hack

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:30 am

We learned earlier in the month that Russian hacker Konstantin Kozlovsky had “confessed” that he had been ordered by Kremlin security forces to hack the DNC. Now he is saying he has proof:

A jailed Russian who says he hacked into the Democratic National Committee computers on the Kremlin’s orders to steal emails released during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign now claims he left behind a data signature to prove his assertion.

. . . .

In written answers from jail made public Wednesday by RAIN TV, a Moscow-based independent TV station that has repeatedly run afoul of the Kremlin, Kozlovsky said he feared his minders might turn on him and planted a “poison pill” during the DNC hack. He placed a string of numbers that are his Russian passport number and the number of his visa to visit the Caribbean island of St. Martin in a hidden .dat file, which is a generic data file.

That allegation is difficult to prove, partly because of the limited universe of people who have seen the details of the hack. The DNC initially did not share information with the FBI, instead hiring a tech firm called CrowdStrike, run by a former FBI cyber leader. That company has said it discovered the Russian hand in the hacking, but had no immediate comment on the claim by Kozlovsky that he planted an identifier.

It’s an interesting story — but if you’re drooling for dirt on Donald Trump, this won’t help you much. For one thing, this story does zero to advance the ball as to anything on the U.S. end; it just solidifies the conclusion that most rational people had already drawn: that the Kremlin was indeed behind the hack. The evidence that the Kremlin was trying to help Trump, and make connections to Trump, has always been clear; what has been murkier is the extent to which the Kremlin’s overtures were accepted by the Trump campaign. Additionally, the information that Kozlovsky provided, if it pans out, doesn’t show FSB involvement; it just proves that Kozlovsky was the hacker. But if true, it would lend credibility to his “confession” and arguably implicate Putin in the hacking.

Or not! Some commentators have opined that the confession is actually helpful to Putin:

To some, it appears that Kozlovsky’s confession conveniently targets enemies of the Kremlin and provides Putin with an opportunity to claim that the hack was ordered by rogue elements.

“[The confession] puts the blame on a narrow group of people who are already in prison, and it moves the blame to an outsourced hack. This would allow Putin to pretend to be shocked that there are hackers in Russia doing this,” Mark Galeotti, a researcher on Russian crime at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, told Newsweek.

“The FSB is prone to employ outside hackers and gives them a choice of working with the FSB or go to prison,” he said.

Russian justice is odd, to say the least. On one hand, anyone Putin wants to be prosecuted will be — witness the fraud conviction of his most prominent political opponent. On the other hand, prisoners under this autocratic regime are sometimes surprisingly adept at distributing their message, even if that message is harmful to Putin — witness the numerous complaints by Sergei Magnitsky that made it into the hands of Bill Browder and journalists. It’s difficult to know what to make of Kozlovsky’s claims, but the story bears following.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

12/26/2017

Yes, Washington Post, Jesus Did Exist

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:00 am

On Christmas morning, a Twitter account associated with the Washington Post called “Post Opinons” tweeted out one of their old op-ed pieces denying that Jesus existed. The tweet read: “Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up.”

As clickbait trolling, the tweet was inspired. As historical scholarship, the piece it promotes is trash. This should be obvious to most people, but I thought I’d toss a couple of links your way in case people are once again spreading this nonsense on social media.

The piece first appeared on the Post’s op-ed page in 2014, and was written by a fellow named Raphael Lataster. Very soon thereafter, a thorough and amusing rebuttal appeared online, written by Lataster’s former professor, who said he would have given the piece a failing grade. Here is a taste of the good professor’s rebuttal:

This time, however, I was particularly interested, not because Raphael Lataster’s piece in The Conversation had anything new to say but because it was written by a young man who just three years ago sat in my Sydney University class on “Historical Jesus to Written Gospels.” . . . As his former lecturer, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that Raphael’s 1000 words on Jesus would not receive a pass mark in any history class I can imagine, even if it were meant to be a mere “personal reflection” on contemporary Jesus scholarship.

. . . .

Finally, Raphael Lataster reveals that his real interest is in sceptical apologetics rather than ancient history when he opines, “There are no existing eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus. All we have are later descriptions of Jesus’ life events by non-eyewitnesses.” Leaving aside the question of whether there are eyewitness accounts in the New Testament – many think there are – such a statement overlooks the fact that virtually everything we know from ancient history comes to us from sources that are neither “contemporary” with events, nor written by eyewitnesses. What we know of Emperor Tiberius, for instance, comes mainly from the Roman chronicler Tacitus, who writes some 80 years after the emperor’s death. This is typical of ancient history, and it poses no dilemma to the contemporary scholar because it is clear that authors such as Tacitus, like the Gospel writers, employed earlier sources within their works.

. . . .

. . . Raphael Lataster’s arguments amount to an unfortunate disregard toward mainstream scholarship and highlight a worrying trend in new atheist literature generally: the tendency to pontificate on topics well outside one’s area of expertise.

The second link is from RedState, from Erick Erickson, who wrote in 2014:

The common thread of all these columns, articles, and expositions are unbelievers writing to reassure other unbelievers at a time of year billions of people are celebrating either the miraculous burning of oil for eight days or a virgin giving birth to a child. The secular left can abide no miracles.

It is not particularly surprising that the Washington Post once printed this garbage. It is a little surprising, given how laughably slipshod the piece is, that they continue to promote it three years later.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

New Reports: China’s Tiananmen Square Response Killed 10,000

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:00 am

A depressing leftover from Christmas Eve. I didn’t want to bring you down by mentioning this on Christmas, but now that the presents have been opened and Santa is in the rear view mirror, it’s Back to Reality time. The Independent:

The death toll from the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre was at least 10,000 people, killed by a Chinese army unit whose troops were likened to “primitives”, a secret British diplomatic cable alleged.

The newly declassified document, written little more than 24 hours after the massacre, gives a much higher death toll than the most commonly used estimates which only go up to about 3,000.

It also provides horrific detail of the massacre, alleging that wounded female students were bayoneted as they begged for their lives, human remains were “hosed down the drains”, and a mother was shot as she tried to go to the aid of her injured three-year-old daughter.

As a reminder: Donald Trump, in a 1990 Playboy interview, spoke admiringly of the “strength” of China’s crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989:

What were your other impressions of the Soviet Union?

I was very unimpressed. Their system is a disaster. What you will see there soon is a revolution; the signs are all there with the demonstrations and picketing. Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That’s my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.

You mean firm hand as in China?

When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak … as being spit on by the rest of the world–

Your President is a nasty and dishonest authoritarian.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

12/25/2017

Christmas Music: Bach Cantata BWV 63

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 7:00 am

It is Christmas Day, and the title of today’s cantata is “Christen, ätzet diesen Tag” (Christians, engrave this day).

The Revised Common Lectionary provides several Gospel readings for Christmas. Today we will focus on John 1:1-14:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The text of today’s cantata is available here.

O dearest God, but what wretched creatures are we?
A fallen people, who have abandoned You;
and yet You will not hate us;
for sooner than we should according to our merit lie
prostrate,
so Divinity must require itself
to take on human nature
and upon the earth
in a shepherd’s barn to become a child.
O unfathomable, yet blessed outcome!

Happy listening, and Merry Christmas!

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

12/24/2017

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 121

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 7:00 am

It is the fourth Sunday of Advent, and also Christmas Eve! The title of today’s cantata is “Christum wir sollen loben schon” (We should praise Christ highly).

Today’s Gospel reading is Luke 1:26-38:

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

The text of today’s cantata is available here. The cantata was composed for the second day of Christmas but is appropriate to today’s Gospel reading, focusing as it does on Mary and the Virgin Birth:

We should already be praising Christ,
the Son of the pure girl Mary

. . . .

God chooses this pure body as a temple to His honor,
in order to convert mankind in miraculous fashion.

The words of the final chorale:

Praise, honor, and thanks be said to You,
Christ, born from the pure maid,
together with the Father and the Holy Spirit
from now on to eternity.

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

12/22/2017

Trump Lies About Why He Signed the Tax Bill This Year

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:00 pm

Trump signed the tax bill yesterday evening. There had been reports that he was going to hold off until January to sign it — but he claimed that he changed his mind simply to keep a promise. CNN:

“I was going to wait for a formal signing some time in early January, but then I watched the news this morning and they were all saying, ‘Will he keep his promise, will he sign it by Christmas?'” Trump said. “And I called downstairs and said get it ready, we have to sign it now.”

Trump might be clueless enough that he believes this, but it’s not the real reason he signed the bill this year. I explained recently that Trump was considering delaying the signing of the bill until the beginining of the year, because a pay-as-you-go provision was going to trigger some inconvenient spending cuts:

President Trump may not sign the tax bill until January even after congressional Republicans passed it in a rush to get it to the White House before Christmas, his top economic adviser said Tuesday.

Rather, the administration may hold off on signing the bill into law in order to avoid an awkward vote on spending cuts that would be mandated under pay-as-you-go law. If Trump signs the bill in 2018 rather than 2017, he would avoid that vote for another year and take a leverage point away from Democrats.

“There’s a technical issue on something called PAYGO,” National Economic Council director Gary Cohn said Wednesday morning at a public interview with the publication Axios.

PAYGO requires that tax cuts added to the deficit be offset [with] mandatory spending cuts to certain government programs. Congress wouldn’t have control over those cuts, and they would cut deeply into Medicare, farm subsidies, and other government programs. Neither Democrats nor Republicans would favor those cuts.

GOP leaders have reassured lawmakers that the automatic cuts will be waived.

But guess what? The law mandating automatic cuts was waived in a recent spending measure:

The bill also includes language to waive certain pay-as-you-go rules that the GOP tax bill would trigger because of the new debt in their tax bill, which won’t be signed into law until these so-called Paygo rules are nullified with this legislation.

So Trump lied about why he passed up a January signing. It was no longer necessary, because Republicans managed to get a waiver of the law mandating fiscal responsibility.

He didn’t nix the January signing to keep a promise. He nixed it because there was no longer any reason for the delay.

Hey, he’s a showman — and being a showman often means dishonesty. We’re supposed to cheer that, right?

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

Thanks for Using the Amazon Widget

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:30 pm

Thanks once again to those who have been using the Amazon widget on the sidebar. It was gone and now it is back. Thanks for making it a habit again.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

12/20/2017

Two More Shopping Days Left

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 3:25 pm

For Prime members to get their gifts delivered in time for Christmas.

Use the widget to the right. My application was approved, and it appears that the previous issues that caused the widget to disappear a couple of times have now been resolved. Thanks for remembering to shop Amazon through my search box!

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Greaaaat: Trump May Delay Signing Tax Bill — to Avoid Spending Cuts

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:30 am

Some of you may recall that I railed against the GOP tax plan in part because I believed it sent a signal that we were never going to get serious about spending cuts to reduce the debt and deficit. Always trust content from Patterico! A report says that President Trump may delay signing the tax bill to avoid spending cuts that neither side wants:

President Trump may not sign the tax bill until January even after congressional Republicans passed it in a rush to get it to the White House before Christmas, his top economic adviser said Tuesday.

Rather, the administration may hold off on signing the bill into law in order to avoid an awkward vote on spending cuts that would be mandated under pay-as-you-go law. If Trump signs the bill in 2018 rather than 2017, he would avoid that vote for another year and take a leverage point away from Democrats.

“There’s a technical issue on something called PAYGO,” National Economic Council director Gary Cohn said Wednesday morning at a public interview with the publication Axios.

PAYGO requires that tax cuts added to the deficit be offset [with] mandatory spending cuts to certain government programs. Congress wouldn’t have control over those cuts, and they would cut deeply into Medicare, farm subsidies, and other government programs. Neither Democrats nor Republicans would favor those cuts.

GOP leaders have reassured lawmakers that the automatic cuts will be waived.

The article phrases Trump’s proposed move in terms of taking a leverage point from Democrats. That makes it a good move under the Anything That Makes Democrats Cry Is a Good Thing style of conservatism that now reigns under Donald Trump.

But under the old style of conservatism that is still observed by me and about three of you, this is a bad thing — because Trump is trying to avoid a law that makes sure tax cuts don’t add to the deficit. The debt and deficit are primarily a spending problem, and this action shows that spending will not be addressed.

They will never, ever, ever, ever, ever cut spending. Neither side will. They don’t care about it.

That we routinely vote to burden our children with crushing debt is a fundamental weak point in the structure of our republic — and absent a constitutional amendment that the public does not want (for obvious reasons), this structural flaw will be our ruin.

At least a handful of us noticed the hole in the ship’s hull before it sank. That’s something, right?

Right?

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

12/19/2017

House Passes GOP Tax Bill

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:43 pm

[guest post by Dana]

The House of Representatives passed the final version of the GOP’s tax overhaul bill today by a vote of 227-203, with no Democrats supporting it and 12 Republicans voting against it.

There was a little commotion during the House floor debate when protesters shouted, “Kill the bill, don’t kill us!” and “You’re fired! You’re fired!” Another protester shouted at Paul Ryan, “you’re lying!,” after he said:

Today we are giving the people of this country their money back. This is their money, after all.

Phil Kerpen also notes that it’s unsurprising that “every House Democrat voted to keep a tax break for sexual harassment and abuse hush money payments.”

The bill now heads to the Senate for approval.

–Dana

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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