Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Daily Donald 4/27/2017

We are fast approaching the 100 day mark and given the complete lack of delivery on any front whatsoever - the Trump Admin is in panic mode. The 100 day mark is usually a simple media check in - you go up in front of the media, everyone takes a look at your spokesman says a few nice words and then the media goes after cookies and coffee.

But that's not where this is headed now. Having unrealistically boosted expectations among Trumpers of what would be achieved in the first 100 days - Trump now finds himself at risk of being classified as a major loser. This is a psychological blow to him as he can only think of himself as a "winner" who is always "winning". With his 100 day "Contract With America" increasingly becoming a slap in his own face - its starting to hurt the man's ego "bigly".

So we are seeing serious counter measures put into play. Kellyanne has got out the markers and the whiteboards and the post its. "Baghdad Bob" Spicer is contriving more stupid crap to pull at the briefings and his crew is busy demoting Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin to Secretary of Commerce. As we get closer to the 100 day mark the intensity and frequency of the casual fuckups will rise significantly.

Trump has organized a rally in PA on Saturday. I am sure everyone will be watching to see how the crowd responds to his pleas for faith in his leadership. The best gauge of this will be how much Trump's people have to massage the public into cheering for him.

In the Stupid Bullshit Department -

1) Trump Admin claimed this week that it had a major thing about North Korea it had to convey to all the Senators. It bused them all to the WH from Capitol Hill and it turned out to be some kind of "kiss the ring" ceremony but Trump didn't have anything to say. Most Senators were left scratching their heads.

2)  Trump Admin officials claimed that Trump was considering conveying to Pres. Pena and PM Trudeau that the US wants to withdraw from NAFTA. However at some point of time Trump was informed that Mexico has put into place measures to ban imports of corn from the US if Trump attempts to put tariffs on Mexican imports and Canada has agreements in place with Europe that will compensate for loss of access to US markets. That led to a 180 degree turn and Trump claimed that he had spoken to Pres Pena and PM Trudeau and that after talking to them he had changed his mind. He also claimed that Pres Pena and PM Trudeau had agreed to expedite trade talks. I am calling BS on this claim. I think Trump basically realized he had no leverage with either and he didn't have the political capital to starve the bulk of the Midwest and crash the US economy as a whole.

3) Trump Admin falsely claimed that in the first 100 days Donald Trump had signed more Executive Orders than any other president in US history. That's not true, FDR did more than Trump and somehow Trump Admin folks can't even use Google properly. It is interesting to note that while Trump personally derided Pres Obama for issuing "too many EOs because he can't work with his Congress", Trump Admin now seeks to project his own failed EOs as stupendous achievements that no one else has ever attempted.

4) Trump Admin appears to have hastily put together a tax plan which includes all manner of fantastical ideas like a 19% reduction in the business tax rate, changes in the tax brackets etc.. etc... etc... There is no way he is going to actually get that tax plan through his own party and if he does he won't be able to balance his budget. The only good thing here is that by putting the impracticality of his ideas in full view like this - he will force investors to reconsider the bullish ideas they are entertaining. This may help  cull the OWM mentality.

5) And last but not least, a more toxic form of TrumpCare is in the works. Novel ways of depriving millions of people access to affordable healthcare and life saving drugs have been proposed. It is very difficult to watch a nation deliberately pull itself into third world status.

Jokes apart - what we are seeing is how Trump's runaway narcissism is inducing him to flirt with things that would kill millions of hard working Americans. This fetish he has with NAFTA will eventually spark a depression. If the market collapses, he will most likely be forced to depart NAFTA and burn the economy to the ground just to look like he is doing something.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Heffalumps in the wild

Every once in a while even a jaded old man like me comes up against something on the internet that takes my breath away.  I would like to thank (@TomWellborn, @MelJBry, @LousieMensch) for bringing this to my attention, and then for all the help in making sense of it.

From the moment I saw it - my weird radar lit up and after some poking around, I flagged it, because I realized I was completely out of my depth. Hopefully the powers that be will be able to think more carefully about it and reach some kind of decision on it.

@MelJBry suggested the name "Heffalump" to capture what we had just seen. It made sense to me, Heffalump may not be real but they look pretty frightening.

I want to lay out some of the background here before I get into the weeds with what appears to be going on here.

Most electronic communications (email, text, phone) use clouds and ISPs. The data that is shuttled between these servers can be penetrated and patterns in the data can be analyzed. This gets a lot easier if you are someone like the NSA/CSS or the FBI. You can basically compel a ISP or Cloud services company to give you the access you need. At the risk of sounding heretical, right now - that kind of access is playing a major role in securing our country. Without  that access we would be at risk.

A lot of people who don't like the NSA/CSS looking into their communications are promoting the use of E2EE (End To End Encryption) software. @rcallimachi has told us how for example IS uses a variety of E2EE texting apps to communicate with its people. The most common E2EE scheme is PGP. As with all encryption schemes a key has to be exchanged between receiver and sender. Once the key is shared, the data is encrypted and sent over public servers from the sender to the recipient. If the key exchange can be penetrated (via for example an "impersonation attack") then the security is breached. Alternatively whoever generates your key can share the key with someone else (like MS did with the CSS) and access all your data.

To defeat this kind of thing one can add other layers of security - authentication, encryption or obfuscation (digital drop etc...) the key exchange etc... but for most companies this proves too expensive to indulge in. Most companies have 100s of GB of data (high velocity) coming in on an hourly basis. This is too much to bother encrypting multiple times.  Whoever indulges in this added levels of encryption must really want to keep stuff secret. That a small niche market but one that as you might imagine is quite lucrative.

So what is going on here? 

We seem to be seeing two things primarily

1) A set of companies appear to be offering a multilayer encryption that encrypts your data via a PGP key before you send it to a commercial cloud (like MS or AMZN etc...) .  This way even if there is an MITM attack or backdoor at the Cloud service provider, and your 2nd PGP key exchange is compromised, the attacker will only see encrypted data. There is also a suggestion to use something called "Tunnel Bear" to access data from certain encrypted clouds.

2) A peculiar version of a digital drop involving separate send and receive channels on Twitter is demonstrated. I am guessing here but what is happening is that the sender is using the receiver's public key to encrypt a PGP key. The encrypted PGP key is being sent on a separate twitter channel and the receipt confirmation is occurring on a different (as yet unknown) twitter channel. The only thing that the sender/receiver need to share is the names of the TX/RX twitter accounts & a public key. This is innocuous information that can be sent over open channels with almost zero overhead.

I don't know if this is just some demonstration for marketing purposes by one of the companies providing the PGP service (a "Hello World" experiment as @TomWellborn calls it), but it is very interesting.

And whoever wants this probably has very deep pockets and dark secrets.

@LouiseMensch seems to think it is the usual suspects.

I have an open mind, but the Heffalumps are certainly curious creatures to be wandering free on the internet like this.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

When will the market fall?

Like  so many of you - I am wondering when the "Trump Rally" will end.

My understanding is that the "Trump Rally" is driven by two factors,

1) A number of subscribers  to the "Old White Man" (OWM) mentality on Wall Street convincing each other that Trump is going to make the economy boom and that stock prices will go up. You don't have to be an old white man to believe this, you just have to be stupid enough to match the target profile that Brad Parscale et al drew up in PA, WI, MI. If you match it - you will subscribe to Millenarist nonsense about markets that go up forever.  You will keep borrowing money to buy shares in companies that are massively overvalued, and you will keep leveraging up in the hope that somewhere you will make a big strike.

2) The Russians want to take the money they injected into the market to survive the long decade long depression that Russia under Putin is now heading for. RIS money movers had pulled money out of the failing RU economy in the 90s and injected into Wall Street via DJT and others. Now they want to pull it back out so that they can shore up their decaying system of power. To do that they have to strategically boost the prices and jump out at the high point. The resulting collapse is something they can take advantage of in a number of ways (especially in the derivatives market) but that is separate story.

You might say - "Hey the market is booming - so why aren't the OWMs coming back to the their senses? and why are the RIS guys dumping and leaving?".

The answer to the first is that OWMs have convinced themselves that Trump will perform magical acts that will take the market to an even greater height. Over the last five months, DJT's image has taken a beating with these people, as they are slowly realizing that he will not deliver most of what he has promised, but all the big players in the market (i.e. Goldman Sachs) are telling them Trump will "cut taxes" bigly. We all know this is total bullshit, but if you subscribe to the OWM mentality - you're pride standing firmly between you and the manifest reality.

The answer to the second poser about the RIS dumping and leaving depends to some extent on the persistence of the OWM mentality on Wall Street and partly on US sanctions that prevent large scale transfer of wealth between RU and the US/EU. Briefly - as long as the OWM effect persists on Wall Steet, RIS can't be sure it is getting the highest possible price (with the lowest risk) for what they are trying to sell. The RIS knows that the coming depression could be long and hard, so they want to squeeze their investment for as much as they can. And so they are seduced into waiting just a little bit longer. The other issue about sanctions on RU preventing the backflow of wealth from Wall Street to RU - that can change if Le Pen is elected in France. Once she is in power in Paris, she can simply break the  US led sanctions and wire money to Moscow. With France breaking all sorts of agreements in the EU, there will be sufficient chaos to permit these flows to go undetected. Also Donald Trump has basically hollowed out the US government machinery by not filling thousands of vacant posts and the few that have been filled are all given to lobbyists. So if France wired money to Putin in Moscow, it is unlikely that Donald Trump's Admin would do anything about it.

So those are the two legs holding the "Trump Rally" up:

1) OWM mentality people waiting for tax cuts and
2) Le Pen waiting to get her hands on the EU banking system.

With each major visible fuckup that the Trump Admin commits the OWM does a double take. The #TrumpRussia story cuts into the heart of the OWM notions of trust. And with each passing day the corrosion of belief in Donald Trump among subscribers to the OWM  mentality rises. Everything we are seeing in the context of Ukraine, North Korea, Meals on Wheels, Obamacare Repeal etc... this imho is purely distraction optics to draw attention away from the collapses of trust in Donald Trump.

Which leaves the Le Pen victory. It would be ideal for RIS to have its hands on the EU banking system, but I feel it may not be essential. I suspect there are other ways to draw money out of Wall Street and push it into Putin friendly hands in the Grand Duchy of Moscow. I suspect some of those channels are via digital cryptocurrencies which are hard to regulate and whose blockchain allows you to securely transact them.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Daily Donald 04/21/2017

The last 24 hours have been quite interesting.

After suddenly announcing that he will no longer run for election in 2018, Jason Chaffetz has indicated that he will likely not be able to complete his present term. He is expected to resign later today. The only thing that will make this more dramatic is if he is suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumor and dies in Walter Reed a la Bill Casey. Rumors on Twitter suggest that he was being blackmailed by the RIS using information about an affair he had. There is no way to verify this but apparently the FBI got hold of the information that RIS was using to blackmail him and pointed out to him that he was committing treason by agreeing to RIS demands. Apparently the RIS wanted him to have Trump's back and the FBI had a different opinion on what he should do to spend the rest of his days outside a federal prison. You know these rumors can be quite entertaining, but no serious observer would ever put any stock in such information as obviously it is not sourced to a recognizable or credible person with direct knowledge of the situation. Jason Chaffetz also decided to share how awesome a person his wife was on twitter. Make what you will of that.

Another story doing rounds is that significant evidence has been found to link the Vault 7 release by Wikileaks to actual CIA documentation. This means that the Vault 7 data was actually stolen from the CIA and that makes its illegal publication a national security related offense. With this latest release, Julian Assange appears to have touched a raw nerve in the USIC. Per news reports the US is preparing to formally charge Julian Assange with espionage and a warrant for his arrest will likely be sought soon. This unfortunately puts Julian in a bit of a pickle. Julian has been getting loads of BTC from God-Only-Knows-Who and he's had to pay various groups of people money to keep himself out of jail. As Trump's guys (see like DCIA Mike Pompeo) are hanging Assange and Wikileaks out to dry, Assange now finds himself in the CIA's cross hairs. Without RIS backing him, it is highly unlikely that SENAIN will be able to withstand US pressures to hand Assange over. Again unfortunately for Assange, if he is handed over, he will be in a position to compromise RIS and Trump's people - and so the only recourse they will have at their disposal would be to make sure that Julian Assange is not in a position to reveal any secrets about TrumpRussia. I always knew that things would end this way for Julian. He clearly knew that the bride he sought had a heavy price.

In the North Korean situation there were some unusual developments yesterday when a sniffer aircraft was scrambled to sample the air. It was unclear if there was any seismic activity to merit this or if there was any other activity on the ground to induce this kind of patrol. North Korea has been carrying out a large number of maskirovka operations to hide the exact moment at which they will choose to test their latest nuclear device. I am guessing the sniffer's flight was probably a response to such a provocation.

Another distraction exercise appears to be in the making. There are whispers now of a reworked Obamacare repeal bill. Mysteriously hitherto opposed elements of the GOP have aligned on a core agenda (presumably to repeal Obamacare) and will soon be presenting something to the house. I am guessing that this is yet another attempt to deflect attention and time from the HPSCI session where Sally Yates is due to testify in the next session.

And in a novel exercise in crowd sourcing, the search for who exactly donated to the Trump Inauguration is being spread across Twitter. A number of mismatches and oddities are being found leading naturally to suspicions about shell corporations and money laundering. To think - all this began because the Trump Admin drew attention to the fact that Trump's inaugural raised twice as much money as Obama's inaugural. Oh that bottomless pit of stupidity.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Daily Donald 4/20/2017

It appears Reuters has unearthed documents from a Putin funded Russian Institute of Strategic Studies (RISS) that detail a plan to  "swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system" [1]  Apparently the documents themselves were obtained by less than legal means, but it is pretty clear that the documents point to massive RIS backed information operations aimed at bringing Donald Trump to power. 

As with all these things, a lawyer can always poke holes in it but in the intelligence world where the opponent always does a lot to obscure their actions, the existence of this much visible evidence of collusion between Donald Trump and Russia is horrifying. 

A lot of people are expecting to see indictments and impeachments and so on. That is sometimes how the intelligence world works - when the evidence is seen as being good enough to stand up in court but when the adversary is likely to use a court trial to gain advantage a different route needs to be followed. 

Let me put it another way - unlike law enforcement where the only objective is to put criminals behind bars, in the spy world the objective is to deny the other side an advantage. Convictions - if they can help - should be carried out, but one must keep an open mind. A lot of times the situation changes depending on how one thinks about it. 

The treason that Donald Trump has committed is staggering in its scope. And truth be told - there is nothing in the constitution that offers immediate relief. Right now this entire treasonous complex operates with a sense of impunity. People like Prince, Stone, Manafort, Kushners, Bannon etc... all think they can commit any crime they like and Donald Trump will pardon them. All these people are very rich so they think they can afford big lawyers and they will get away with anything. 

It is this attitude, this belief that there is no way to hold them accountable that makes the situation really unstable. Yesterday we saw Exxon apply for a sanctions waiver to explore oil in Putin's arctic regions. This kind of blatant corruption allows us to visualize the extent of the problem. We now clearly see how messed up the ONG sector has become. These people are willing to sell out their own country to preserve their bonuses. 

As the RIS is composed of extremely intelligent people, they will always find new ways of penetrating the security sphere of our country- that is quite literally their day job. There will always be someone vain or stupid enough to buy into their promises and become their agent. This person will always operate under the belief that there is no accountability for their actions. 

Restoring accountability is the key to preventing the RIS from getting further advantage at this time. For our part as citizens, we must seek ways of excluding the influence of fake news from our minds. If nothing else atleast look to see if the news item you are reading has been first published in an RIS backed online channel. Once the sources of their propaganda are identified, the cumulative effectiveness of the propaganda will go down. 

At a higher level, the ethics review process inside Congress is clearly broken. Jason Chaffetz indicated yesterday that he is not seeking re-election in 2018. It would be best if he stopped obstructing the ethics review in the House altogether. It is not in the GOPs interests to see its image as a party of principled conservatives be damaged. That is is the surest way to reduce any chance of the GOP getting any seats in 2018. As things stand there is >20 pt shift in KS04 and GA06. If that trend continues, the GOP will lose everything in 2018. If Trump is still president by then, it is likely that he will try to cut deals with the Dems and blow traditional GOP power bases out of existence.  Worse still the Dems will end up taking credit for impeaching him. That will ensure that the GOP is remembered in history as the Party of Vladmir Putin for an eternity. Surely no GOPer would want that.

On a related note, everyone knows that Bill O'Reilly was helping a fellow alleged sex-criminal Donald Trump gain positive coverage on Fox. Now that Bill O'Reilly has been fired for sexual harassment issues. One link in the Donald Trump human centipede has been disabled.

It seems another link in the same human centipede - Alex Jones - has been exposed quite badly in his divorce proceedings. His ex-wife contested custody of the kids by claiming that he is unhinged and has been diagnosed with a severe narcissistic personality disorder but his lawyers are claiming "he only plays a character on his YouTube channel - Infowars". Apparently Alex Jones thinks it is okay to claim that the kids that died in Sandy Hook Elementary School never existed. The pain he inflicts on the poor parents is entertainment per his definition. For now Alex has gone quiet. My guess is that he hopes to be able to have some access to his kids but if he doesn't get it - I imagine he and his fans will attack the Judge presiding over his case. That ofcourse will completely lead to a very long jail term, but a narcissistic person just can't help themselves.

On the topic of narcissists, our Russia friendly AG is very busy encouraging toxic behavior in the Justice Department. Having collected a cabal of pliable Nazis, he is going around turning the Justice Department into Donald Trump's rubber stamp. It is no surprise therefore that department has fired the US attorneys but they have no replacements several weeks after the event. It is unclear who if anything is going to make the Justice system do anything at all. It seems the whole point of this exercise is to defeat the physical machinery of the Justice Department that would otherwise bring criminals like Donald Trump to justice. 

As the visible demand to see his tax returns grows, Donald Trump's insecurities rise. As his insecurities rise - the stupid bullshit explodes. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Daily Donald 04/19/2017

We seem to be living in a world of mysteries.

First off - it seems that the CVN Vinson and its "armada" was never actually near Korea. And what is even more perplexing is that 38North can find no evidence of a missile launch from the ground at Sinpo. Now it could be that Trump's "armada" was a nuclear attack submarine in the Sea of Japan (that would certainly explain why a Bear, a May and a Fencer was loitering there on April 14th), and DPRK actually attempted a launch from a submersed platform instead of a land based launch platform... or it could be that given both KJU and DJT are profound bullshitters - all the stuff I was worried about was just political theater aimed at deflecting attention from new information emerging about Trump campaign ties to Russia.

Secondly, we are still waiting to hear details of the events at Tangi Asadkhel. No one besides the US has apparently been allowed on ground zero. There are no actual casualty numbers. A partial list of the Jihadis killed in the attack mostly includes members of the Okrazai tribe in Pakistan. The group affiliations are listed as TTP, LeT and some unknown Indian group. There is no mention of IS as a primary organization identifier. Now it could be that the strike was wildly successful and the US wants to keep the details secret and use the information to infiltrate IS, or it could be that the US wants to keep the true effectiveness of the MOAB against tunnel complexes a secret or it could be that the attack was unsuccessful altogether and keeping the Afghans and press from seeing the details is the only way to hide the miserable failure of the scheme. Again we have no idea what really happened in  Tangi Asadkhel.

Then there is the odd matter of the special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District. As predicted by so many poll agencies, the election has gone into a runoff. In the last 5 months, the district moved from being 20 pts towards the GOP to splitting down the middle between GOP  and Democratic Party. This is similar to the kind of shift observed in the 4th district of Kansas. A massive swing away from the GOP. What should come as a shock to the system in the GOP is that the greater alignment with Donald Trump produced poorer electoral results. This is a pointer to an anti-correlation. If KS04 highlighted that the Trump brand could no longer draw voters into the GOP's ranks, GA06 suggests that  the Trump brand is actually driving large numbers of voters away from the GOP. There will be a run off - but before that happens, one needs to review carefully what exactly happened in Fulton county where a  mysterious "data error" prevented the votes from being transmitted electronically. I am not suggesting that something illegal occurred (though quite frankly I would be less than surprised if it did - there is really no way for GOP to win besides rigging at this point) - but that in this age of hacking - one needs to be extra careful. Perhaps if the theft of the machines was detected  properly, there would be less  cause for concern but as that crime remains unsolved at this time, one has to assume the worst. What I suspect is that the GOP threw the book at GA06 to prevent a  > 50% vote for Ossoff. Losing GA06 would have  looked bad on Donald Trump's "100 Days" report card.

In other news Preet Bharara has been appointed by NYAG to lead the investigation into Trump's illegal financial dealings. It is unclear if any of these crimes can be pardoned by Trump himself or  if he will be impeached before his pardon  power lapses. Once impeached he cannot pardon himself for other crimes that he has not been charged with.

In an indication of the stress levels surrounding his general existence, Donald Trump made several public mistakes where he got Congressman Paul Ryan's name wrong. He also forgot which country he bombed last week and mixed up Kim Jong Un with his father.

All the while the Trump kids appear to be lining their pockets will whatever  change they can find  lying around the oval office.

The people that  voted for Donald Trump need to ask themselves how we came to be in a situation where the  kind of rampant and brazen kleptocracy came  to reside in the  White House.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Daily Donald 04/18/2017

As some of you may have heard, Bellingcat and Human Rights Watch came out with an OSINT study of US claims regarding the Al-Jinah Mosque complex. A study of available evidence points to the US deliberately bombing a mosque filled with 300 worshipers. The exact fatality count hovers in the 30-40 at this time. It is unclear if the US bombed the mosque to target a Tablighi group that stayed in the mosque with their families, or if was after someone else, but so far no link has been found to violent extremism in any of the victims' social media. The only logical conclusion sustainable at this time is that the US acted based upon some intelligence it received and it was processed incorrectly.

A lot of people suspect that this processing error is due to President Trump's directive to give the military "a free hand". Most people see the "free hand" directive as being a corollary to his electoral promises to "bomb the shit out of them" and "kill the families". I don't buy that completely. I think Trump is too much of a career criminal to actually put anything that illegal on paper. I suspect what we are seeing in this case and others like it (the Yemen fuckup, the Mosul mass murder and the MOAB drop at Tangi Asadkhel) is Trump disabling the part of the NSC that has review on this  kind of thing.

Many liberals were quick to criticize (and rightly so) the Obama era disposition matrix. You may recall that I never did so. This is because thought the disposition matrix (Kill List) was immoral and unjust (the people on the list were denied an appeal) it was extremely thorough and accountability for the process steps was traceable inside the government. This internal accountability made list admins very careful as they felt they would be hauled up before the President to answer for their fuckups. The result of this pressure was an extraordinary amount of due diligence and professionalism. I am not saying mistakes weren't made but because President Obama personally signed  off on each killing, there was a great deal of pressure to get it right.

Today that pressure is gone. With Trump deliberately obscuring and violating the presidential records act, and the GOP legitimizing his illegal acts - the entire accountability is broken. The result is that a terrorist state is slowly coming into being. The GOPers won't realize this until it is too late. By the time this all comes to fore - the drones and the MOABs will be hitting people on the streets of DC. This is the only outcome of deliberately disabling the accountability process for targeted killings. The intentions in that kind of thing are always criminal - to get away with murder - that is what is sought. Once you get away with murder in a distant land - then you can "shoot someone on Times Square" and get away with it too.

Georgia's 6th congressional district heads to the polls today for its special election. It is anyone's guess what will happen here. We are seeing significant signs of election tampering by GOP folks. Add that to the gerrymandering and voter discrimination that is common in Red States and the bizarre electoral behavior of so-called religious folks down there - and you have an election that is too close to call.

On the North Korean front, after much saber rattling and fussing the tensions of last week have given way to a sense of ennui. Most watchers are tired of tuning every time the clock strikes 8 AM in Pyongyang. I am guessing that this is what KJU wants - so he can finally test his thermonukes in peace. The Chinese seem worried about a venting event at the test site. They have instructed cities bordering DPRK to prepare for a nuclear accident in North Korea. I think this means KJU has asked his boys to test a MT yield device underground. I think the last one that was tested in that magnitude was Cannikin. God help us all when that happens.

In other entertaining news Prime Minister May finds that she does not have support within the Houses of Parliament for pushing through her ideas on Brexit (and whatever the else) so she intends to call for a general election in June. I am sure Nigel Farage will do whatever he can to help President Putin win this election - though I am not sure if President Putin has been given enough notice for this.