OPEC

Wednesday Morning: Quelle couleur est-ce?

I think vestigially there’s a synesthete in me, but not like a real one who immediately knows what colour Wednesday is. — A. S. Byatt

A lot of people will ask what day it is today, but few will ask what color.

Ed Walker put up a great post late last evening, one that deserves more oxygen. Do check it out.

Hospital held hostage for millions by ransomware
Hey Hollywood! A hospital in your backyard has been “infected” with ransomware, their enterprise system tied up until administration coughs up $3.6 million.* Didn’t see that coming, huh? Law enforcement is involved, though if they haven’t managed to resolve other smaller ransomware attacks, they won’t solve this before it critically affects patients’ care.

This is a pretty good (if unfortunate) example of business continuity crisis. Remember Y2K and all the hullaballoo about drills and testing for enterprise failure? We still need that kind of effort on a regular basis; how do you run your biz if all electronics go dark, for any reason?

(* US articles say $3.6M; CAN article linked says $5M. Currency difference, or an increase in the demand?)

Google found critical vulnerability in GNU C Library
CVE-2015-7547: glibc getaddrinfo stack-based buffer overflow” Huh? What? If you read Google’s blog post about this yesterday, you were probably scratching your head. Some Googlers struggle with writing in plain English. Here’s what tech news outlets interpreted from that google-degook:

Ars Technica: “Extremely severe bug leaves dizzying number of software and devices vulnerable
BBC: “Glibc: Mega bug may hit thousands of devices
Threatpost: “Critical glibc Vulnerability Puts All Linux Machines at Risk

In a nutshell, if you’re running Linux, patch your systems, stat.

Petroleum’s still a problem

  • Iran’s not going along with Saudi-Russia-OPEC agreement on oil production limits. Iran wants to return to pre-sanction production levels before it makes any concessions.
  • Oil glut and tanked prices creates secondary challenges. Saudi’s youth now have entirely different prospects for employment now that oil cannot guarantee national wealth or careers with good pay. Will this cause political volatility in RSA? Wonder what will happen in smaller oil-producing countries like Venezuela and Ecuador?
  • Weird outliers buck trend: Indian oil producer Chennai had a strong Q3, and First American Bank more than doubled its stake in oil development firm Anadarko. Neither of these stories make sense when oil prices have and are plummeting and show no solid sign of improvement in the next year-plus.

TBTF is still too TBTF
Neel Kashkari, Minneapolis Fed Reserve president, called for the breakup of Too-Big-to-Fail banks yesterday, as they are still a risk to the economy. Didn’t see that coming from a fed president, especially Kashkari.

Biggest tech story today: Judge ordered Apple to help hack San Bernadino gunman’s phone
Apple’s been fighting government pressure on backdoors to its products. The fight intensified after federal judge Sheri Pym ordered Apple to cooperate with the FBI to unlock encryption on a county-owned phone used by San Bernadino gunman Syed Farook. Begs the question why any government agency — local, state, or federal — would ever issue a phone with encryption the government could not crack in the first place. Seems like one answer is a government- and/or business-specific encryption patch to iOS: [IF phone = government-issued, THEN unlock with government-issued key]. Same for business-issued phones. Your own personal phone, not issued by a government agency or business? No key, period.

Phew. That’s enough for a Wednesday. Hope we can coast downhill from here.

Tuesday Morning: The Fat One You’ve Awaited

Mardi Gras. The day before Ash Wednesday. Fat Tuesday. In Brazil, it’s Carnival — plenty of parades with costumed dancers and samba. In New Orleans, it means king cake, beads, and more parades, but here in Michigan, it means pączki. No parades in the snow, just an icy trek to the Polish bakery for some decadent sweets we get but once a year.

I’m still drafting this, too much stuff to weed through this morning. I’ll update as I write. Snag a cup of joe and a pączki while you wait. Make mine raspberry filled, please!

Economic indicators say “Maybe, Try Again”
Asian and European stock markets were a mess this morning. There’s no sign of an agreement between OPEC nations on production and pricing, which may lead to yet more floundering in the stock market. Yet one indicator — truck tonnage on the roads — doesn’t show signs of a recession in the U.S.

UK court cases topsy-turvy: LIBOR Six and a secret trial

  • UK can’t hold the LIBOR Six bankers accountable for their part in the 2008 economic crisis because the prosecution was sloppy. It’s pretty bad when a defense attorney asks if the prosecution was “making this up as they go along.”
  • The article’s first graf is a warning:

    Warning: this article omits information that the Guardian and other news organisations are currently prohibited from publishing.

    The case, R v Incedal and Rarmoul-Bouhadjar, continues to look like a star chamber, with very little information available to the public about the case. The accused have been charged and served time, but the media has been unable to freely access information about the case, and their appeal has now been denied. A very ugly precedent for a so-called free country.

Facebook: French trouble, and no free internet in India

  • Shocked, SHOCKED, I am: French regulators told Facebook its handling of users data didn’t sufficiently protect their privacy. The Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL) told the social media platform it has three months to stop sharing users’ data with U.S. facilities for processing. CNIL also told Facebook to stop tracking non-Facebook users without warning them.
  • The Indian government told Facebook thanks, but no thanks to its Free Basics offering, a so-called free internet service. The service ran afoul of net neutrality in that country as it implicitly discouraged users from setting up sites outside Facebook’s platform. Many users did not understand there was a difference between Facebook and the internet as a whole. Mr. Zuckerberg really needs to study the meaning of colonialism, and how it might pertain to the internet in emerging markets.

Boy kicked out of school because of his DNA
This is a really sad story not resolved by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). The boy has cystic fibrosis; his parents informed the school on his paperwork, as they should in such cases. But because of the risks to the boy or his siblings with similar genes, the boy was asked to leave. GINA, unfortunately, does not protect against discrimination in education, only in healthcare and employment. This is a problem Congress should take up with an amendment to GINA. No child should be discriminated against in education because of their genes over which they have no control, any more than a child should be discriminated against because of their race, gender identity, or sexuality.

All right, get your party on, scarf down the last of your excess sweets, for tomorrow is sackcloth and ashes. I can hardly wait for the sugar hangover to come.

Tapping the Oil Industry

Remember when it was outrageous that the Iranians had (allegedly) hacked Aramco? In addition to wiping hard drives (though in ways that left the computers recoverable), they also took and threatened to release documents.

In news that I earlier predicted, NSA and GCHQ have hacked OPEC, including Saudi Arabia’s OPEC Minister (though NSA managed to detask him when he came to the US).

Spiegel doesn’t provide much detail of what they’ve gotten — just a tantalizing overview, particularly given the likelihood that the speculation claim pertains to the skyrocketing prices in 2008, which (among other things) the Saudis used to get us into a new security cooperation agreement.

None of this is surprising. But as we try to fearmonger new wars based on one party hacking another, it’s probably safe to assume we got there first.

It stated that OPEC officials were trying to cast the blame for high oil prices on speculators. A look at files in the OPEC legal department revealed how the organization was preparing itself for an antitrust suit in the United States. And a review of the section reserved for the OPEC secretary general documented that the Saudis were using underhanded tactics, even within the organization. According to the NSA analysts, Riyadh had tried to keep an increase in oil production a secret for as long as possible.

Our TCA with Saudi Arabia (and the fact that we (Booz, in fact!) are now providing it with cybersecurity) may well be one reason it is no longer a top NSA target.

OPEC appears in the “National Intelligence Priorities Framework,” which the White House issues to the US intelligence community. Although the organization is still listed as an intelligence target in the April 2013 list, it is no longer a high-priority target.

Who needs to hack when you’re in charge of cybersecurity?

And guess which company has a lot of that business? Edward Snowden’s former employer, Booz.

Time to End the War in Iraq

The War Powers Resolution 6-Month Report has gotten unusual attention because it officially announces we’re at war in Yemen and Somalia (though I suspect the Administration has only finally officially announced we’re at war against al Qaeda in Yemen precisely because we’re not, just).

While everyone’s looking, let’s look more closely at this bit:

MILITARY OPERATIONS IN IRAQ

The United States completed its responsible withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in December 2011, in accordance with the 2008 Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq on the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during Their Temporary Presence in Iraq.

Jeebus pete. Can’t we avoid propaganda like “responsible withdrawal” in even these bureaucratic communications? (Or “working closely with the Yemeni government to operationally dismantle … AQAP”?)

Nevertheless, even dripping with propagandistic language as it is, this passage seems to be official notice to Congress that the war in Iraq is over, done, kaput.

So now can we repeal the Iraq AUMF?

As you’ll recall, over six months ago, Rand Paul proposed an amendment to repeal the still-active Iraq AUMF. It failed miserably, 30-67. During the debate on it, a bunch of reasonable Democrats (and all the usual suspect unreasonable ones) stood up and blathered on about why we need an AUMF for a war that is over. If you asked now they’d probably point to the bad crowd Iraq is hanging out with in OPEC circles.

Iran and Iraq are forming a strengthening alliance inside Opec, raising concerns among moderate Arab Gulf producers like Saudi Arabia and increasing the potential for discord in the oil producers’ group.

[snip]

A particular bone of contention was a proposal by Venezuela – backed by other Opec hardliners like Iran, Iraq and Algeria – that the group should protest against the EU sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear programme. The move was rebuffed by Saudi Arabia and other moderates including Nigeria, Libya and Kuwait, who argued that such protests were the preserve of foreign ministers, not oil ministers.

(Yes, you read that right: Saudi Arabia is considered a “moderate” state in this context.)

Or they’d point to the series of bombings al Qaeda in Iraq has claimed credit for recently.

But the real reason they won’t repeal an AUMF for a war that has officially ended is because that AUMF expands the authority to fight terrorism beyond simply al Qaeda to whatever “terrorist” groups the President claims is in armed conflict with and poses a threat to the US. Indeed, in Mark Udall’s effort to “fix” the NDAA, he even suggested the Iraq War AUMF pertained to “covered persons” who could be detained indefinitely under that law.

I know it sounds funny, having to insist on ending a war the Administration just informed Congress is over. But it’s not over.

The Oil Weapon and the Fight for Hegemony of the Middle East

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to get OPEC to raise production has foundered on opposition, mostly from those on the other side of the fight for hegemony of the Middle East and the world, starting with Iran. The vote came down to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and UAE against Iran, Iraq (!), Libya, Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

But as that breakout makes clear, this is as much about making things difficult for the US as anything else.

Analysts said that while there were opposing views on whether markets required more crude, the backdrop to the disagreement revolved around political tensions in the Middle East and North Africa and differences over how to respond to consumer demands.

“One factor is a diverging market view. Another is politics,” said analyst Samuel Ciszuk at IHS. “At times of heated politics/ideological debate, Saudi struggled to dominate as much as it could have given its size vis-a-vis others in OPEC.

Gulf Arab producer Qatar has given support to Libyan rebels fighting the government of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. And Saudi Arabia has angered Shi’ite Iran by using force to support the Sunni Bahraini government in suppressing a Shi’ite rebellion.

Easily OPEC’s biggest producer, Saudi Arabia normally gets its way.

But this time those in OPEC politically opposed to the United States — led by Iran and Venezuela — found enough support to block Riyadh.

“Saudi is the cartel member most interested in earning political points’ with consuming countries, and maintaining its image as a reliable supplier of last resort,” said Katherine Spector at CIBC World Markets.

“Venezuela and Iran likely feel they have less to gain politically by increasing quotas as a symbolic gesture.”

The IEA responded by begging Saudi Arabia to increase supply anyway.

“Of course what really matters is actual supply, which should move in line with seasonally rising demand, and we urge key producers to respond accordingly,” the IEA said.

It also once again made oblique reference to the only real tool it has at its disposal to battle high prices — the 1.5 billion barrels of government held oil inventories that it coordinates on behalf of its 28 members, a reserve meant to be used only in the event of an emergency outage.

“The IEA stands ready to work with its member governments and others to help ensure that markets are well supplied,” the agency said in an email.

And Ed Markey was the first member of what will surely be many members of Congress advocating to tap the Strategic Reserve.

“OPEC, led by Iran and Venezuela, has snubbed its nose at the United States and the rest of the Western nations addicted to OPEC oil,” said Markey, the top member of the minority party on the Natural Resources Committee in the House of Representatives, said in a release.

“This is a clear sign that America must engage in a long-term plan to break our ties to this OPEC-controlled market, and prepare to deploy America’s oil reserves now to head off an economic collapse from continued high gas(oline) prices.”

Well, if there was any doubts Congress would find the Libyan war legal yesterday, those doubts will be dispersed today. And fracking? Expect more of it in your local drinking water.

Breaking: Persians Still Better at Chess than Americans

Is it any surprise that Iran chose this moment to ditch the dollar?

Iran, the second-biggest producer of crude oil in the Middle East, has “completely halted” all oil transactions in dollars, the state-run ISNA news agency said, citing Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari.

No, I don’t think so. After all, the release of the NIE this week will make it very difficult for the US to respond with full-scale war–as some believe the US did when Iraq moved away from the dollar. The Administration has been telling us for weeks now that Iraq is all peachy keen, which will make it hard to claim that Iran is destabilizing Iraq. And now the Administration has just said Iran has no active program to develop nukes–the other convenient excuse to start a war. Moreover, by pushing Europe to strong-arm Iran, all the while hoarding the information that Iran didn’t have the nuke program we claimed they did, has really pissed off our European allies.

And, at the same time, Iran has picked a moment that may have maximum effect on OPEC as a whole.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has set up a team to study pricing oil in another currency, the INSA cited Nozari as saying. The measure is designed to prevent further losses in revenue to oil exporters, ISNA reported.

The group’s findings will be announced at the next OPEC meeting, Nozari said, according to ISNA.

IANAE, but it seems that each time an oil producer moves away from the dollar, it’s going to be more and more tempting for others to follow. So by moving while the issue is under consideration, it may pressure those on OPEC (our Saudi bankers) who want to help the US out.

Two weeks ago, the Annapolis Conference looked like an opportunity for the US, the Saudis, and the Israelis to forge some kind of agreement that might counter Iranian power. But things haven’t gone so well for them in the interim two weeks.

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel RT @scotusreporter: Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman sent to solitary confinemen, his son says https://t.co/aUrv0cgcQD
16mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV @shenebraskan Second most lethal venom among snakes.
17mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @peter_donnelly Secret, um, something.
43mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV I am SO ready for a margarita and some guacamole. #CoralSnakeDay
2hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @BlanksSlate Yeah, but they are all getting a check by that point. Is asinine to the players AND fans
2hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @WALLACHLEGAL hahaha, does here as well!
2hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @StephStradley @evyllsummer ...Brady/NFLPA should have brought Olson in. Fight big fire with big fire.
2hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @StephStradley @evyllsummer Yeah. Think this right. Kessler had kicked ass+taken names up until then, but second Clement brought in....
2hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @StephStradley: Nah. My view then and now https://t.co/7dbW1kwQ5A MT @evyllsummer I definitely felt that Kessler seemed ill-prepared htt…
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Screw this BS. Go back to having first two rounds on the first night. https://t.co/pjDfOCZKpm
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @kentsomers @PaolaBoivin FWIW, kid seemed far more squared away than I expected last night. I love this pick, especially w/Cards lockerroom.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
April 2016
S M T W T F S
« Mar    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930