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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Linux Seek Job Application Bot, Random Stuff, and More

- I've heard stories about recruiters being frustrated by so called job application bots (or else people applying without thinking for all jobs) without really thinking about whether the job in front of them is right/suitable for them. I decided to see whether I could build my own job application bot. I could! (Seek 'broke it' a short while back before I finished things off. Still works pretty well for what I want though. Wouldn't take long for me to get it working completely again (a few minutes)... Written using a combination of BASH and Python) Anyhow, download it here (can easily be modified for other sites and jobs as well and to apply for jobs with particular keywords, criteria, and so on):
# This script is to facilitate searching for jobs that are easy to apply
# for on the Seek website. Obviously, really basic but does the job by
# iterating through all relevant job links and then parsing the content
# of job application pages to see whether they can be applied for easily
# or not. If they are flag it, else ignore it. Change relevant code
# inside of seek_bot_selenium.sh and elsewhere you can also automatically 
# apply for jobs using the other included experimental files in this 
# package.
# More interesting for me is that this set of scripts can easily be
# modified to also customise job applications based on job descriptions.
# Fun project for someone?
# Look at my Seek Menu project if you want further details of links
# that can/should be supplied to seek_bot_selenium.sh
# As this is the very first version of the program (and I didn't have
# access to the original server while I was cleaning this up it may 
# be VERY buggy). Please test prior to deployment in a production 
# environment.
- as an aside one thing I have noticed is that Seek (and a lot of the other major websites) has a lot more downtime/code modification the you think. A lot can change on a website in a week
- not easy but not rediculously difficult. If anyone has had to deal with JavaScript at the Linux CLI they'll know how infuriating this can be. There aren't that many options out there and the options that are available are generally pretty klunky. Some of them involve proxies to render the Javascript on the fly via a conventional CLI based web browser such as curl, links, elinks, lynx, etc... Others attempt to hack it back into a CLI based browser. I've tried hacking/automating it via xvkbd, and xdotool into a web browser 
javascript interaction linux cli
javascript capable linux cli browser
Text browser with javascript & HTML5
Headless web browsers 
linux cli render javascript
HyperTerm – JS/HTML/CSS Terminal 
wget, curl, links, elinks, lynx don't work
- turns out I finally had to use the browser automation/testing tools such as Selenium. Pretty easy to use. The problem is just getting the toolchain installed/setup though. I had to hack a local platform and some packages to get things going
linux cli web browser javascript
Text browser with javascript & HTML5
webdriver.chromium examples
selenium copy all text from page
login via selenium
selenium gettext python
- obviously, rendering a form is one thing filling it in is entirely different... xdotool and xvkbd have strange idiosyncracies that you'll figure out the more you use them. One of the strange issues is how to deal with window focus via xdotool. Sounds easy, but you need to think you're way around the way it works to get it to work properly
autofill form via javascript
fill javascript form selenium
selenium cheat sheet
selenium cheat sheet pdf
selenium python cheat sheet
chrome selenium idea plugin
Selenium Page Object Generator
curl form interaction
autokey debian package
automate form application linux cli
open url in new tab chrome linux cli
xdotool debian package
xdotool window activate
block comment bash
: '
comments here
and here
: <<'END'
comments' here
and here
xdotool window activate
xvkbd send return cli
xvkbd send control character
xvkbd send F4
use xev to get keysym
xdotool tutorial
phantomjs browser
- using full on macro/automation frameworks such as Sikuli is also possible but they aren't as lightweight as you think...
alternativeto sikuli
- one thing that is interesting is that I've been playing around with the idea of building a Facebook bot (does various things including auto-replies, talks to people, etc...) that doesn't necessarilly have to plug into the Facebook API/framework. One of the obvious issues is that everytime someone builds something 'insert name of Large Company' deliberately attempts to 'break it/stop it from working'?
facebook bot
web browser automation
post to facebook from linux cli
login to facebook curl

Random Stuff:
- more footage of funny animals out there...
Panda scratching butt
Panda Scratching Butt)) Chengdu, China
Never Before Seen - Panda Bear Handstand - Bears - BBC Earth
Bear Scratching Butt Video
Grizzly Bear Clambers Over Family Car
- repositories of information created by the crowd doesn't really change anything? In fact, I think a lot of people have been 'dumbed down'? Instead of going out and researching and really understanding material they just take the first few picks off of the Internet and then use that as the basis for their 'knowledge/work'
- latest in science and technology
- latest in finance and politics
- latest in defense

Random Quotes:
- I occasionally use the voice feature on my Android phone, so I went to look at the recordings on Google, which the article below explains how to do.

Indeed, the audio is archived.

The article implies that Android is transmitting audio without the user initiating the voice feature.

While I don’t doubt that’s a possibility (see below), from looking at the list of audio sessions in Google’s history of my use of the feature, I don’t see any indication that it recorded any random conversations.

That said, I have definitely been targeted for audio surveillance via my mobile phone one time that I’m aware of. I visited a friend and set the phone down. The battery charge state was about 60%. When I went to leave a couple of hours later, I picked up the phone and the battery was nearly dead and the phone was hot. Under normal circumstances, it would have dropped by maybe a couple of percent. Someone very definitely decided to turn my phone into a bug that time. The phone never behaved like that before or since.

So while I don’t see any evidence of Android transmitting random audio in the manner described in the article below, Android is very definitely capable of being used as an audio bug, and it has happened to me to the point that it was totally obvious. It’s not like it came as a shock that this happened. I’d been reporting on the capability for years on Cryptogon. It just finally happened to me.

The incident I described above happened a couple of years ago and I never mentioned it on here. I thought that people might think, “Oh sure, conspiracy theorist thinks he was targeted for surveillance,” etc. etc. That’s fine, but that incident definitely happened. I’m mentioning it now because I think the danger of the piece below is that people will see their audio sessions, recognize them as legitimate, and assume nothing to see here, that’s the extent of what can happen with the phone.


If you carry a mobile phone, or find yourself in the presence of people who carry mobile phones, know that any audio could potentially be recorded.

Snowden actually demonstrates how you can avoid having the phone turned into a bug when you’re not using it.

Of course, as soon as you put the battery back in, you give up your position and when you do anything on the phone, that’s compromised as well. But it might be helpful to someone to know that the mics and cameras can be removed.
- Lt. Col. Robert Gurzeda, commander of the 32nd Tactical Air Base, told reporters during a visit that the Polish government made a “mistake” in 2003 when it signed a contract for 48 of the Lockheed Martin-produced fighters, because it did not involve a complete spare-parts replacement program.

Gurzeda, a logistician by trade, expressed concern over the haphazard way that parts are replaced for the F-16 fleet as a result of the existing contract.

“With the purchase package that we got, the Americans, they promised to send us parts. But the contract doesn’t say exactly how often we are to get them,” Gurzeda explained through a translator. “So it doesn’t say at every beck and call we’re going to get the parts we want. The deal we have is we have to send them our broken parts to be fixed, and that can last, it can take as long as 18 months.”

Asked what could be done to fix that, he noted that the Polish government is in discussions with the US about a new sustainment agreement, saying “we are talking about this with the Americans but I don’t know when we will see a new [agreement].”
- Senator Di Natale restated his view that Australia should reconsider its strategic alliance with the United States and stop orientating its foreign policy around Washington.
"I think there's no better time . . . to redefine the terms of the US alliance," he said. 
"We think it should be done . . . the fact that we are even talking about a Trump presidency scares the daylights out of most people.
"I think the first thing to do is look at the Australian national interest. I think it is absolutely in our national interest to redefine the terms of our alliance and not to commit troops blindly to international conflicts in the way we have done in the past.
"We are the only country that's followed the US into every international conflict since World War II, including some major strategic blunders.
"I think the sign of a mature relationship is one where you can stand up to a partner and tell them when you think they have got it wrong. We haven't done that, to our own detriment and the international community," he said.
- “Usually to build a crowd, you’ve got to play people covers. That’s just the way it is when you’re at my level. Sometimes there’ll be a song and I’ll think I’ve got 20 or 30 people there, I’ll play one of mine… Then by the end of it there’ll be a hundred people there, I think, ‘Okay, I’ll write that one down’.

“The ones that didn’t work, I don’t even remember. They’re gone. Just on someone’s iPhone who was filming me on the day, maybe.”
- A government inquiry leaked to the Daily Express newspaper last November allegedly found evidence of radical Muslim inmates bullying fellow criminals into converting to Islam.

Those who did not convert were reportedly forced to pay a tax, as prescribed by sharia law.

According to the Express, some inmates were forced to ask family and friends for money to pay the tax. Others chose to convert instead.

“It sets a dangerous precedent and sends a message to non-Muslim inmates that Muslims are going to run the prison according to their own rules and sharia,” an anonymous Whitehall source said at the time.

The probe was ordered by Justice Secretary Michael Gove in August and found the alarming situation in some of largest prisons in the country – Belmarsh, Long Lartin, Woodhill and Whitemoor – that together hold 2,633 prisoners, the Daily Express claimed.
- Weatherburn suggests abolishing short sentences – which offer little deterrence and no chance at rehabilitation – and reducing the length of sentences, given the evidence suggesting the likely time spent in prison is less of a deterrent than the likelihood of getting caught. Getting rid of the unnecessarily punitive rule that prevents prisoners seeking parole for a year after a refusal, even if there is less than that left to serve, would help too.

I don't think it is too much to ask to require those calling for ever more people to be jailed, and for ever longer periods, to prove their case. Rather than confect outrage and demand vengeance, I want proof of why we should spend ever more public funds on prisons, taking money away from schools and trains and hospitals. That is what harsher sentencing does, for little public good.

I doubt I am alone in preferring that a person who commits a crime, wherever possible, should repay his debt to society through community service, for instance, while working and paying tax and caring for his family, rather than sitting in a prison costing us money.
- The continent is rich is natural resources that are being exploited for big profits, but the money is rarely used for the benefit of the people. Instead it goes to line the pockets of corrupt officials who then often smuggle it out to be deposited in secret offshore bank accounts in the developed world.

So who facilitates these transactions? And how and why does the developed world make it so easy to launder this dirty cash?

In this revealing investigation for People & Power, Kwenda and the Ghanaian undercover journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas, set off to find out. Posing as a corrupt Zimbabwean official and his lawyer, their probe takes them deep into the murky world of 'corporate service providers' - experts in the formation of company structures that allow the corrupt to circumvent lax international money laundering rules.  

It just so happens that the pair's enquiries take place in the Seychelles but, as they discover to their horror, they could just as easily be in any one of a number of offshore locations (or even in the major cities of Europe and the US) where anonymous companies can be set up for the express purpose of secretly moving money and keeping its origins hidden from prying eyes.
- FACEBOOK founder Mark Zuckerberg is the latest high-profile victim of an embarrassing hack attack and he reportedly only has himself to blame.

Hacking group OurMine Team took over his Twitter and Pinterest accounts on the weekend, rubbing salt into the wounds by using his Twitter account to announce they accessed his accounts because they found his password “dadada” in the details of stolen LinkedIn accounts of more than 164 million people that were leaked online last month.
- There’s also a change in that Japanese companies are beginning to carve out niches in business-critical components and services, rather than headline-grabbing gadgets.

“Innovation is less obvious because it is more often linked to products and processes that consumers don’t see,” says Chern-Yeh.

Fanuc, for example, is the world’s biggest robot maker, and it makes industrial robotics for Apple, Samsung and Tesla. It has run production lines so clever they can run for weeks without supervision.

Making waves in medici­­ne is an online business called M3, which links doctors directly with drugs companies. It’s branched out globally, and runs the UK’s largest doctor network, says Nicholas Weindling of JP Morgan.

Whether Japan succeeds in kick-starting its economy remains an open question, but there’s a quiet re-boot of the country’s technology underway.
- Kamal does not mention Russia once, but I remember an MI5 officer telling journalists not so long ago that there were just as many Russian intelligence officers operating in Britain in the 2000s as there were during the Cold War in the early 1980s. “Alongside those threats,” continues Kamal, “we have the terrorist threat, we have states and organisations looking to proliferate weapons of mass destruction and nuclear technology. We have states with territorial ambitions and more recently we have people looking to conduct cyber espionage against the UK.”
- People watched with a mixture of horror and amusement as Trump took apart his opponents during the Republican debates. Ted Cruz was supposed to be a debate champion in college. He couldn't withstand Trump's assaults. All Trump needed to do was repeat the nickname "Lyin' Ted" over and over again until it stuck.

A few months ago, Trump started referring to Clinton as "Crooked Hillary." He's preparing the rhetorical battle space.

Also, Clinton is not a very good debater. People forget the way Barack Obama eviscerated her during the 2008 Democratic primaries. She does not do well in situations where she doesn't have complete control. It's why she prefers interviews to press conferences. Interviews are more predictable. Press conferences are free-for-alls.

We're a long way from the Lincoln-Douglas era, when people would sit and listen for hours to closely argued speeches. Trump is a master of the emotional appeal. He's shown he has no compunction about attacking Clinton and her husband on their moral and ethical lapses, even as he's fighting lawsuits accusing him of fraud and dodging questions about his past infidelities and current net worth.

In a contest between two shameless politicians, the one with the least shame wins. Get ready for President Trump.
- Rural Australia rarely gets its voice heard in the mainstream media, simply because the cutbacks dictated by the parlous financial state of media companies mean there are no journalists to report on issues which concern the bush.

And the situation is getting worse. Yesterday, News Corporation announced it would be closing seven of its community newspapers. Fairfax has already given up on local news, preferring to depend on features in its local papers.

Neither Bill Shorten nor Malcolm Turnbull have ventured to say anything substantial on the NBN in four weeks of campaigning. Mitch Fifield and Jason Clare, the Liberal and Labor members respectively responsible for communications, haven't been forthcoming either.

The only time that the NBN figured in the campaigning was when the Australian Federal Police raided the offices of some Labor functionaries in a bid to find out who leaked supposedly confidential documents about NBN Co to a number of media outlets.

How long will we have to wait to see what the two contestants offer?
- His description of the trading floor echoes that of most on this blog: "Virtually all male, like an army." He added an interesting point: how the rise of technology brings on a new kind of trader: "More and more people on the trading floor are university graduates with a degree in maths. Quite a few are Oxbridge educated, though rarely the privileged kind. Many are from poor backgrounds, with photos of their children on their desks. They tell me it's to remind them why they are working so hard; so their kids can do whatever they want."

He is from a modest background too, and when he was in university it seemed "a no-brainer" to go into banking**. "Corporations came to deliver pitches, and it was simply a matter of the highest bidder. Those were the banks, by a long shot. I was quite naive, had no real idea of what a job on the trading floor might be. I just saw the figure, realised I was twenty thousand in student debt, and there I went."
- A security firm is warning that cyberattacks are expanding from data theft to destruction of computer and information networks.

Analysts from FireEye said state-sponsored hackers, such as those from the Chinese military, pose the greatest danger. Other cyberthreats come from cyber criminals and online hacktivists.

“FireEye analysts have noted that threat actors continue to broaden their scope,” the report said. “They are not only interested in seizing the corporate crown jewels but are also looking for ways to publicize their views, cause physical destruction, and influence global decision makers, regardless of industry or company size.”

Hackers are “diversifying and expanding their targeting across myriad industries,” the report said, adding that “government agencies and their contractors are not their only targets anymore.”
- The Muslim holy month of Ramadan started this week. Fasting during the day throughout Ramadan is one of the five core obligations of observant Muslims. Many are likely to take part in the fast, which falls during some of the longest, hottest days of the year.

Over the course of the month, Muslims are told to read the entire Koran – or about one-30th each night. And from dawn until dusk, for the 29 or 30 days of the month, to abstain from eating, drinking “and from the feeding of their passions – whether those passions are road rage or romance,” says Johari Abdul-Malik, an imam and the director of outreach at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Centre in Falls Church, Virginia.

[Pakistani Muslims perform a special Taraweeh evening prayer on the first day of Ramadan at a mosque in Lahore. Photo: AFP] Many Muslim scholars liken fasting to an almost meditative state or a heightened mindfulness that brings one closer to God.

The obligation is laid out in the Koran in the second Surah: “O you who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might remain conscious of God.”
- The mid-2010s saw the end of the quarter-century period of Pax Americana – U.S. global domination which was not seriously contested by anyone. Now, the world powers – the U.S., China and Russia – have entered a period of rivalry.

In response to this change, the U.S. has altered its global strategy. From an emphasis on universalism (the stimulation of globalization, the promotion of democratic values in the world), Washington is moving to strengthen the position of the enlarged West and actively deter countries that challenge the United States.

Under these circumstances, it is too early to look for a way out of the confrontation. The Russian leadership has been active, but the maximum that can be obtained through such tactics is to buy time. The crucial question is whether Moscow is able to use this time to support its bid for the place and the role of one of the leading world powers through a substantial strengthening of its economic, scientific and technical as well as cultural and informational power.

As for relations with the U.S., they will focus on the management of the confrontation in the short and medium term. This is primarily the prevention of incidents involving soldiers of the two countries; an effective freezing of the conflict in the Donbass and, finally, the maintenance of permanent and reliable contacts with influential U.S. officials to avoid the misrepresentation of certain actions by Moscow and Washington.
- Since first being deployed to Afghanistan in December 2009, RAAF Herons have flown 10,000 hours. Wing Commander McMullan claims the Heron's automatic take-off and landing system makes it much safer than American Predators and Reapers, which he says have notoriously difficult manual controls and suffer a high crash rate.

"The majority of Predators and Reapers are lost on landing. They lost three during my last time there," he revealed.

But the Heron isn't always graceful. Wing Commander McMullan conceded there had been "some crashes". In 2010, Sydney's Daily Telegraph reported that Defence had covered up two Heron accidents.
- "Low rates in an economy like Australia will genuinely be a test of the stability of an economy that has a very specific relationship with the rest of the world," he said in his latest monthly update to clients. 

"This relationship has become one of ever increasing reliance on foreign capital to continue to do business, and allow us to live beyond our means.
"When the commodity boom was in full force everyone wanted to be Australia's best friend, but since the commodity boom ended with a whimper in 2014 Australia has become the little weedy kid no one wants on their team."
Even though real economic growth has been healthy, he argues that it is deeply worrying. The economy is growing at a headline rate of 3.1 per cent a year, "yet we keep sending this growth overseas through high imports and paying out on past borrowings".
Most countries with zero or negative interest rates, referring to Europe and Japan, are exporters of capital because of their trade balances and because there is no reward for investing money at home. So their currencies have not really fallen that far, despite the extraordinary nature of policy settings.
- Security is very much a relative concept; no device that is connected to the public Internet can ever be 100% secure. The only way to guarantee against information leaks is by encasing a device in concrete and then sinking it to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean (the Atlantic or Indian Oceans would do as well).

It is unlikely that, despite changes to the privacy act, a government organisation would disclose that it has leaked data through a hack. In such a scenario, covering one's backside is the prime consideration. Many years ago when I wrote about the defacement of a council website in Western Australia, the response of the man in charge — from whom I sought comment — was to call me a son-of-a-bitch.

Of course, anyone who discusses things like this will be called a wowser. That is to be expected. But we are entering a brave new world, guided by people who have very little technical knowledge. There is a sense of confidence which borders on arrogance and that is never a good thing.
- HFT is a system that uses complex computer programs to execute millions of trades per second.

Using information generated at speeds many times faster than the blink of an eye, super-fast computers installed with HFT software can estimate the rising value of a stock before the increase takes place.

Utilising HFT since 1999 has enabled some large investment banks, hedge funds, and other institutional investors to buy stocks microseconds before everyone else. They then make a profit - billions of dollars over the years - by selling the shares on at a higher price.

Brad, who was investing for the likes of Canadian pension funds, and didn't have access to HFT, thought it was completely unfair. And he was determined to do something to prevent it.

So with a team of colleagues Brad started work on a way to disable HFT.

What they devised was a "speed bump", a system whereby trades are slowed down by 350 microseconds by using 38 miles of fibre optic cable stored in a compartment the size of a shoe box.
- Moscow (AFP) - The cottage cheese crackles like popcorn, emits a greyish smoke and finally goes up in flames, burning for an impressive ten minutes, like a well-oiled torch.

The noxious experiment, filmed and posted last month by Russian news website Fontanka, concluded that some dairy sold around Saint Petersburg does not actually contain any milk and is "good only for filling kerosene lamps".

Though authorities closed one factory making the combustible cheese, the problem of milkless dairy, meatless sausages and other questionable products worry both government agencies and Russian shoppers amid a recession and a food embargo that left shelves empty of Western food imports.

"We decided to show that it's a systematic problem," said Fontanka reporter Venera Galeyeva, on the quest to expose other fake foods since her cheese-burning video went viral.

"The problem is not one specific producer. Globally the problem is that Russia does not have enough milk."
Others use anything from water to "starch, chalk, soap, baking soda, lime" and even plaster to dilute and conserve milk, the watchdog said last week, scandalising the milk industry.

"Most domestic producers take advantage of the non-competitive market and don't rush to make good products," said Irina Tikhmyanova, spokeswoman for Roscontrol, a consumer protection NGO.

Sixty percent of 46 Russian dairy products tested by the group were recently shown to contain surrogates, she said. For meat products, the figure was even higher.

Though recent polls showed that people are noticing food quality go down, many Russians still embrace the embargo.

In a June poll by Levada centre independent pollster, 40 percent of respondents said they were against allowing European products into Russia -- up from 31 percent in March 2015.

Galeyeva of Fontanka said Russians with shrinking disposable incomes would just have to keep buying fake cheese as prices grow.

"When you have just 300 rubles ($4.7, 4.2 euros) to feed your family for the week, you won't be so picky."
- Moscow is the most active player in the race for polar dominance — despite the current economic crisis debilitating its fortunes at home.

Of Russia's 39 icebreakers, six are powered by nuclear reactors.

The newest vessel — the Arktika — was floated on June 16 and will make its maiden voyage next year. An unchallenged feat of icebreaker engineering, the vessel is 1 ½ football fields in length and is powered by twin nuclear reactors.

Arktika's job will be to smash through ice in the northern seas to allow other ships safe passage, in addition to delivering supplies to high-latitude research expeditions. 
The dominance of Moscow is not surprising given the country's vast, 25,000-mile northern seaboard.

"Just look at the length of the Russian Arctic coastline, it's the biggest in the world," said Pavel Gudev, at Moscow's Institute of World History and Economic Relations. "Of course you need more ships."

By comparison, the U.S. has an Arctic coastline of just 1,000 miles. 
- BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia is performing a delicate balancing act between its European aspirations, partnership with NATO and its centuries-old religious, ethnic and political alliance with Russia.

Belgrade is being wooed by the West which has sought to bring it into the fold since the fall of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Serbia is now a European Union membership candidate and the bloc is its top trade partner and benefactor.

Belgrade is also quietly moving toward NATO despite the reservations of most Serbians but it is wary of damaging its loudly proclaimed friendship with Russia that wants to boost its influence in the region and which is hostile to the military alliance.

"Serbia cannot entirely turn to NATO, it will maintain the maximum level of cooperation with it, without changing its (membership) status," said Genady Sysoev, Balkan correspondent for Russia's Kommersant newspaper and an expert on Moscow's policy in the region.

"Serbia cannot turn to Russia because ... no Serbian leadership would risk losing Western investment and aid."
- BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Thursday suggested the U.S. defense secretary brush up on his history after urging Beijing not to build a "Great Wall of self-isolation", saying the Great Wall was build to keep out invaders not as a hindrance to contact.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the remarks at a security dialogue in Singapore this month, when the United States and Asia nations put pressure on China to rein in its actions in the disputed South China Sea.

Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said Carter's comments had been noted.

"As for the Great Wall, those who have studied Chinese history all know that it was defensive," Wu told a regular monthly news briefing.

"It was to keep out the cruel oppression of invaders, not friendly envoys or free trade."
- Election campaign periods, when a caretaker government is running the country, have amply illustrated one of the reasons a mature democracy can operate smoothly without an active government. Two examples.

The Reserve Bank raised interest rates during the 2007 campaign, infuriating John Howard. The Federal Police raided the homes of staff of powerful Labor politicians during the 2016 campaign, only telling the government and opposition when the raids were about to begin.

The country's work is mostly done by independent institutions such as the Reserve Bank or the courts, or autonomous institutions like the Federal Police, that continue to function without political direction. The states and local councils, of course, operate as usual.

In fact, Belgium under a caretaker ran so smoothly that a former deputy prime minister of the country, Karel De Gucht, told me after nine months of political limbo that "I worry that it's going too well".

He feared that the people would be quite content to live without a government, as long-term problems accumulated without any solution. He proved to be right.

Belgium's debt continued to accumulate under the caretaker and finally, the politicians agreed to form a six-party coalition when the country's sovereign credit rating was downgraded, sending a jolt through the system.

So there is no need to panic about an interregnum under a caretaker government in Australia . It's not as if the elected governments did a great job of managing Australia's deficits, in any case. Debt continued to mount under Labor and Liberal administrations for eight years continuously. The credit rating agencies on Monday warned that Australia eventually needed to bring the debt problem under control.

Without an active, elected government, long-term problems will accumulate. But then, many have accumulated under Australia's elected governments too. The problem is not the uncertainty of a caretaker period. The problem is the long-run conduct of the parties themselves. The political parties need to jolt themselves out of their self-involved partisan games or, eventually, a crisis will do it for them. 
- Under the euphemism of “containment,” the US is relentlessly advancing its new Cold War on Russia and China. Its instrument in the West is NATO, and in the East, Japan, and whatever other worthies can be sharked up.

It is a Cold War that grows increasingly hotter, with proxy wars now raging in Eastern Ukraine and Syria and with confrontations in the South China Sea. There is an ever-growing likelihood that these points of tension will flare up into an all-out military conflict.

In the West, this conflict will begin in Eastern Europe and Russia, but it will not stop there. All the European NATO countries would be on the front lines. In the East, the conflict will take place in the Western Pacific in the region of China’s coast and in the peninsulas and island countries in the region, including Japan, the Philippines, and Indochina.

In each case the US will be an ocean away, “leading from behind,” as Barack Obama would put it, or engaged in “offshore balancing” as some foreign policy “experts” might term it.

No matter the “victors” - all of Eurasia, from France in the West to Japan in the East - would be devastated. No matter the outcome, the US could escape unscathed and “win” in this sense. And all Eurasian nations would lose. It would be World War II redux.

One can get a sense of what this means in the case of economic conflict by looking at the minimal economic warfare now being waged on Russia in the form of sanctions. Those sanctions are hurting both Russia and the rest of Europe. The US is untouched.

The same is also true for military conflict. Want to know what it would look like? Look at Eastern Ukraine. All of Eurasia could come to resemble that sorry nation in the event of a military conflict pitting the US and its allies against Russia and China. Eurasia, be forewarned!

The goal of the US foreign policy elite would clearly be for Russia and China to “lose,” but even if they “won,” they would be brought low, leaving the US as the world’s greatest economic and military power as it was in 1945.

Europe is beginning to awaken to this. We have Steinmeier’s plea above. But it is not only Germany that is worried. The French Senate wants an end to the sanctions imposed on Russia. Business people in many Western European countries, most notably in Germany and Italy, European farmers who export to Russia and tourist entrepreneurs like those in Turkey and Bulgaria, also want an end to sanctions and military exercises. Parties of the Right want an end to domination by NATO and Brussels, both controlled by the US. The Brexit is just one rumbling of such discontent.

All these nations are growing increasingly aware of the fate that awaits them if overt conflict erupts with Russia. The people of Germany want none of it. Likewise, the people of Japan are stirring against the US effort to goad Japan into fighting China. All remember the devastation of WWII.
- We Americans must face this unpleasant truth: the actions we’ve taken as a nation in the belief that our country has a moral obligation to use our power to help others have utterly backfired, resulting in the deterioration in the quality of life in the very places we’ve tried to help. Changes, therefore, are mandatory.

First and foremost, our foreign-policy elite must recognize that America is not a magician, and accept that sometimes our desires can’t be translated into reality; there is limit to power.

Secondly, there needs to be a humble recognition that our chosen methods to help have failed far more often than they’ve succeeded; no one benefits if our tactics ultimately worsen conditions.

Third, the foreign-policy elite must be willing to accept that the will of the people in foreign lands will sometimes manifest itself in ways we find unpalatable, but they must be willing to live with it nevertheless.

Fourth, we must reestablish diplomacy to primacy and return military force to a subordinate role in the conduct of foreign relations; we presently have an unhealthy addiction to the use of lethal force to get our way.

Fifth, reorienting our military from one whose primary purpose is to intervene in and occupy other nations to one designed to guarantee the security of the American homeland, airspace, cyberspace and coastal regions. Our military power has been severely weakened over the past few decades by its dissipation in occupation duty and endless counterinsurgency fights. The security of the United States is weaker as a result. We must return the primary focus of the Department of Defense to countering existential threats, while maintaining a strong secondary focus on countering terror threats.
- Alliance, by its nature, means an insurant. By inking an alliance, the United States has assured her allies that she will help defend them in times of crisis. Just like a commercial insurance company, the success of the business rests on the insurer’s credibility. As long as U.S. allies believe that Washington will fulfill her words, the alliance system will hold up. However, if U.S. allies do not believe her words—thereby doubting the credibility of her words—the alliance system will unravel.

A new question emerges as a consequence: how can China damage U.S. credibility so much that it will lead to the unraveling of its regional alliance system? For sure, there is no better way to damage one’s credibility than proving that one is unable to fulfill one’s words. Put it another way, China must show U.S. allies that the United States will not come by their side when they need her. That means instigating a conflict with U.S. allies, making sure they will call for U.S. assistance and, at the same time, making sure that the United States will not fulfill her insurance policy.

It is a dangerous game to play for sure. Beijing must do its best to make sure the United States will not come by her allies’ side or else it will face a war with the United States—a grim possibility given both sides’ possession of nuclear weapons.

In order to succeed, China must be sure that the conflict she is instigating is important enough for U.S. allies that they will call for U.S. assistance, but that the conflict per se is not important enough from the U.S. perspective, making it highly unlikely for her to fulfill her insurance. Put it simply, China must make sure that the conflict per se represents high stakes from U.S. allies’ perspectives while a negligible one from the U.S. perspective.
- The "snack packs"  – a styrofoam box of chips topped by cheese, kebab meat and a "holy trinity" of garlic, chilli and barbecue sauces, particular popular among high-schoolers – have become an inter-communal feast of brotherly (and sisterly) love. After the Brussels attacks in March, one Melbourne poster offered: "Here we are Muslims and non-Muslims alike enjoying our HSP's, reading reviews and worrying about our assignment due dates when a bunch of dickheads go and kill innocent people around the world in the name of their barbaric ideologies …" That post got a couple of thousand likes.

Cheesy Tomato Based Pasta Recipe, Adding Subtitles to Video Files, and More

This is the latest in my series on quick, easy, and tasty meals:   http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com/2018/08/cheapeasyhealthy-tomato-based-pa...