Tuesday, October 31, 2017

My limited understanding of RIS operations

I have read about these things for a really long time and tried to make sense of its all. This is the best I can come up with.

The RU does not entirely believe in the credibility of its own nuclear deterrent. It is not clear to me if they are really able to keep their physics packages in good working order, and if their guidance systems on ICBMs actually have the desired levels of reliability.

With that backdrop - IMHO - they are predisposed to using illegal agents to interfere with the nuclear command and control chain of the US and other nuclear armed adversaries. This mission is most likely tasked to the "illegals" or S Directorate. It has to be "illegals" because if a declared officer in an embassy or a military unit is used to do this - it could be interpreted as an act of war. The S Directorate unit used to be part of the KGB's First Chief Directorate and now it sits inside the SVR-RF. I use the term "A Team" to refer to this core operation and the extremely high quality agents that service it. I would not be surprised if S Directorate has access to small nuclear weapons with deniable isotope signatures. I would never dream of under-estimating their capabilities in any way.

As the S Directorate agents are extremely expensive, a lower grade of agent is used to keep the illegals and the core mission from harm. This screening force of lower grade agents is what I call this the "B Team".  I suspect that great care is taken to ensure that these screening agents are run via multiple "cut-outs" so as to avoid compromising the "A Team". The "B Team" agents are cheaper, either with little to no backstopping on their legends or with no legends at all and run via relatively simple NOC arrangements.

Given that the number of screening force agents has to be large if it is to isolate but still support the A Team and the massive cost associated with creating extremely well back-stopped legends, it is very very expensive to run this vast cloud of agents and resources scarcity is not entirely unexpected.

From accounts and analyses by more experienced people in the US, it appears the entire election interference in the US was carried out using "B Team" or screening force agents. When I first came across these analyses, my main thought was - How did B Team keep up its original mission while supporting the election of Donald Trump?

The answer to this question led me down many a rabbit hole over the last six months. I can't say have I have all the answers but it seems whatever has happened is very complicated.

As the Saudis dropped the oil price, the RU went into extreme economic distress. Exploitation of the Siberian oil reserves were no longer economically viable. Faced with the imminent destruction of his political patronage system Putin moved to seize the Ukranian oil fields. This fell afoul of the ONG Mafia's "No Grabbing" rule - and Putin was accused of the same crimes that Saddam was ages ago.

As the international sanctions kicked in things started to really hurt inside the Grand Duchy of Moscow. At this point I feel that RIS resources were massively re-tasked to support all operations that led to a resolution of the situation. My guess is that given the resource crunch in the Kremlin, the re-tasked resources were never replaced.

"Operation Assad", "Operation Erdogan" and "Operation Brexit" produced acceptable results, and that in turn fed the notion in the Kremlin that the "Operation to Elect Donald Trump" was the most promising option to resolve RU's difficult economic problem. This operation took up an increasingly massive chunk of RIS resources and the screening force around the "A Team" was thinned even further.

I wonder if things got so bad that the cart began to pull the horse - i.e. if "A Team" resources ended up having to expose themselves and support B Team's ever expanding fiasco - "Operation to Elect Donald Trump".

This is completely speculative, but if something like that happened, the residents of les will face the uncomfortable prospect of losing their ultimate insurance policy. One possible outcome of this is that RU will have to become more dependent on its nuclear weapons for security as it would no longer be able to rely on the S Directorate stopping the US first strike.

If any of this is true, then two things are likely to happen in the foreseeable future.

1) A credible and robust threat of a "Dead Hand" system, that would make for assured retaliation. We have seen some such talk emerge out of Kadryov but it will repeated from far more credible sources.

2) RU would ramp up drills of its nuclear deterrent and attempt to showcase the ability to launch extremely large numbers of nuclear weapons at once. This will demonstrate the RU ability to overwhelm the US missile defense capability.  We saw something resembling this in the week, there may be more to come.

We appear to be cursed to live in interesting times.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Chinese Armor Bde digs in near Doklam Plateau

(painfully rubbing my forehead).

At the height of the Doklam crises earlier this year, we began to see photos appear in various social media of a PLAGF military exercise [1] in outer Tibet. The exercise sought to examine the ability of a PLAGF formation to operate at >5000 m ASL. As you can see in the video, the PLAGF troops are practicing ways to attack bunkers on adverse slopes using infantry assaults and stand-off weapons.

Not long afterwards, images and videos surfaced on Twitter of a PLAGF armored squadron moving south of Damxung towards Lhasa - right beside Tibetan railway line. If you looked at that movie, it becomes pretty clear that unit was driving to a fight. The soldiers looked alert and the APCs were moving under their own power. Given how long of a drive it is, you wonder why PLAGF would want to put so many miles on their APCs. If it was just routine - they would  have arranged for rail transport or used trucks. The fact they were driving in the APCs meant that there was no time to go through the usual process. This suggested that the PLAGF felt the threat was emergent.

At around the same time, a lot of loose talk began to emerge on Indian social media of the IA seizing the Chumbi valley. Given that IA lines of communication in the Doklam area are short, this kind of threat was highly credible. At the time, I had become highly alarmed by this talk and where I saw it, I tried to stop it. I felt that even if the IA was only joking, the PLAGF would have no choice but to take that threat seriously.

Given how the Doklam standoff dragged on, the Bhakts pushed ever more aggressive positions vis-a-vis China and that led to a difficult situation. Chinese analysts could have been forgiven for thinking that the Modi regime was keen on picking a fight. In a bid to douse the runaway perception that a Chinese threat was imminent, someone in the Indian national security community gave an interview to the Indian press. In this interview, the anonymous source stated that the bridges on the Tsang Po river were being watched and that no movement south of the Lhasa bowl had been detected. This piece of information helped calm frayed nerves (of people like me). It told me that the situation was not as escalatory as I had originally thought and the IAF still had the option of taking out the bridges.

Using this piece of information and the Chinese posture reversal, the Modi Bhakts were able to project the entire Doklam situation as a glorious victory for Modi. AND (this is where it hurts the most) - I actually believed that was *essentially* true.

Even though it looked like the possibility of an escalation had waned, I worried about the fate of India friendly Tibetans in the Lhasa area. With an armor brigade parked in the Lhasa bowl, there would be tremendous pressure on those guys. I felt it would become difficult for them to operate freely and radiate information about PLAGF posture in the region as security would become tightened. With all the assurances emanating from Delhi, I felt I must be wrong, perhaps more advanced multi-spectral imaging would reduce the dependence on such sources.

Now out of the blue - a PLAGF brigade has materialized and dug in just north of Doklam[2]. And what is more important is that neither the IAF nor the NTRO nor the DIA nor the RAW raised an alarm when this unit moved across the Tsang Po! or made it's way so far south.

We have an entire PLAGF armor bde sitting with support elements including AD assets far south of Xigaze.

I am left confronting extremely uncomfortable questions - clearly I was stupid to believe that the situation was contained and that escalation had capped off but
  1. Was the initial assurance about surveillance deliberately crafted to make Modi look good? or
  2. Was information about this Bde crossing the Tsang Po suppressed for Modi's political benefit?
I have generally (and publicly) felt that Modi was at best mediocre when it came to national security issues. In his speeches he demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of the fundamentals of the complex issues India faces. In Gujarat - his "Hindu Hitman" image building (which was critical for him overcoming the local caste divide in Gujarati politics),  actually made physical security and counter-subversion extremely challenging. I was deeply unhappy about the manner in which SIB resources and double-cross operations had been subverted by Amit Shah to make it look like Modi was some kind of Security-God. It smacked of the stuff that Ariel Sharon would pull form time to time. And quite frankly killing random Muslims for the amusement of Bhakts and other fools is really disgusting.

But like most people I have held on to the hope that the machinery of the government was strong enough to make up for Modi's personal deficiencies. I - like - so many others put faith in the idea of NSA Ajit Doval.

My confidence in Sri. Doval has taken a hit over the years

1) I was stunned by his inability to speak truth to power on the demonetization issue.
2) I was disturbed by the Paras being unable to provide proof-of-kill during the "cross border raids". That just smacked of an operation focused on optics and not on substantial threat reduction.
3) I was shocked when Gen(r) Syed Ata Hasnain had to keep reminding people about the patriotism of Muslims. If an officer of his standing has to do this, what can an ordinary Muslim expect?

And now I am searching for answers about this Doklam fiasco.

So - why was an alert not sounded *before* the PLAGF unit positioned itself?

Inte door aane kyon diya unko? Vitasta paar aaye kaise yeh log? 

(Why did you let them come so far? How did they cross the Vitasta?*)

*The Vitasta is a psychological barrier in the Indian strategic mindset. Crossing the Vitasta is akin to the Roman phrase "Crossing the Rubicon".

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Where do you build your perfect survival bunker?

When people go to great lengths to hide something - they end up revealing whatever it is they are trying to keep secret.

Let's assume you are rich and have more money than you need to keep the act of being rich going. You want to invest in something will assure your survival even when SHTF.  Even if the entire world was destroyed, you (and your chosen companions) would survive.

This puts you in the market for a doomsday bunker.

Every such bunker needs three things

1) Captive water supply
2) Captive energy supply
3) Overburden.

Most people would say - that bunker needs to be in the middle of nowhere, however when it comes to bunkers isolation is not a good thing. Ultimately the bunker needs staff to operate. You need to have janitors to clean, service staff to keep it in working order. These have to be people you can trust, so a ethnically and religiously narrowed base is preferable to diverse population with no unifying principle. If you don't pick your staff carefully, then who knows, when SHTF - they'll kill you and take your bunker for themselves. So you need people you think you can control.

Also when you dig the earth to great depths, you need a place to keep all the soil you dig out. You also routinely encounter groundwater, so you need a place to pump it out to (usually a river or lake). It is possible to truck all the extra soil away, but it is smarter to just pile it on top of the actual bunker - that way you get your overburden for free.

Captive water supply and energy can be combined in a place that offers a nice lake or river and has a dam already built. If there are forests nearby one could access a source of wood and other biomass for heating purposes. Any mines or mineral deposits with associated refining infrastructure are big plus.

A relatively smart rich person will create a bunker, pile the soil on top and then put a mansion on top of the mound. The mansion is mostly camouflage, it costs a lot of money to put an underground facility in place (lots of drilling and stabilizing the cavity etc...) and without a mansion on top with ridiculously garish fittings, you draw attention to your hole in the ground.

So that makes it relatively easy to locate such facilities. Just go to Zillow and look for where the mansions are. Take the ones that are close to a lake but sit close to or on a mound of earth.

Naturally the companies that build such sites tend to be quite discreet but they are also end up becoming great friends with the rich people they "help out". Since rich people also have powerful political friends, the quickest way to see the builders of such facilities, is to spot the ones with unusual public relationships with political figures. Like ones that get public contracts when they clearly don't deserve it.

Now.. cough cough Whitefish cough cough ... excuse me, I think I need to get a glass of water.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The battle to control CO2 emission is lost - Focus on Methane now!

With the failure of Donald Trump to support the Paris accord, a lot of other players are likely to dissociate themselves from the Paris process. We have seen such developments in Norway, I am sure others are just waiting to find reasons to walk away from doing anything.

It hasn't sunk into most of people of the world that the battle to control carbon emissions is critical to humanity's survival. People still cling to antiquated notions of being able to pollute the earth with no adverse consequences in their lifetimes.

This is moral collapse that so many have suffered that it is impossible to get any meaningful progress on this issue. Whenever a pioneer like Obama comes along and pushes us forward, a Trump or Putin or some other asshole comes along and pushes us six steps back.

We draw ever closer to an extinction level event with each day that we sit on our rear and do nothing.

If the "Globalist Reptilian New World Order Cabal" that the Trumpers love to hate does indeed exist and it is actually trying to exterminate the Trumper Race... well then what better way to achieve this than to feed the Trumper sense of ennui on Climate Change issues?

When you try to bring up the need to do something on this issue  - the Trumper promptly disclaims all competency - "That's such a big thing I can't really do anything about that" says the Trumper. It is as if the Trumper believes that his Russian pals will ensure he survives the holocaust that inevitably follows, but the Trumper quickly defaults to "We can't do anything about that so we shouldn't even talk about it".

I am willing to entertain the fiction that somehow Trump actually won this election. I am willing to look past the RIS interference in WI, MI, & PA, if I could get some traction out of the Trumpers on critical issues.

But the Trumper calculus (like Trump's policy structure) is a fundamentally do-nothing affair. We are expected to fund giant walls to nowhere and tax cuts for the rich, but nothing of substance that would actually enhance true economic productivity. We are supposed to throw our life's savings into this "Stock Market" which is fluffed up by AIs running on Wall Street but we are not expect to ask what if any productivity increases can we expect at the personal level. Are we expected to keep borrowing money to pump into the stock market that is inflated with some Trump nonsense about a revival? or are we expected to pay back the debt we owe by working in more productive ways?

The Trumper has no answer to this. Their mental vacuum that matches the biggest primordial black hole.

The GOPers are not much better. They cling to the notion that they can have a stable political agreement with Trump. Somehow reap the benefits of association with RIS and still not face political consequences. Flake makes big speeches, Corker spouts all manner of wisdom, but they are all bark and no bite. Not one GOPer will impeach Trump. Grassley and Nunes keep running interference in the House and Senate.

And amidst all this Bannon has declared he will run for President.

I suppose if you wanted to ensure that the Great White Male fantasy of leading the US forever into the future is to finally destroyed - then these developments are positive but I worry what kind of world we will live in once this political goal is achieved.

I propose we do what we know is necessary to save the world and let those who seek personal destruction do whatever it is they do.

With attitudes where they are, I propose we explore ways of aggressively cutting man-made Methane emissions. At this time they are at 10 Billion Tons. Most of those are from agricultural sources. These agricultural sources could be exploited using biogas plants and turned into usable energy, biomass and natural fertilizer. A related idea would be to sell the CO2, moisture and heat produced from biogas production to greenhouses so as to boost their yield.

We have seen successful explorations of these ideas in Canada and a few places in the US. If we draw attention to those successes, we can stop the Methane beast.

As long as CO2 emissions continue to rise, we will see a gradual desequestration of Methane in natural sources. If we prevent the man-made Methane contributions we might be able to arrest the thermal runaway process that will lead to a mass extinction in the next decade or so.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Watch those Methane Emissions!

Methane is a major "Green House Gas". It is about 86 times worse in terms of ability to cause global warming.  Every ton of Methane we emit is like 86 tons of CO2 for two years and then it is like 1 ton of CO2 each year after that for a hundred years.

The temperature goes ~ 2 degrees per trillion metric tons of CO2. If we were emitting only Methane then it would take a few billion metric tons of Methane to get the same rise.

Atmospheric Methane comes from two sources -  man-made (agriculture, industrial) and natural (desequestered from gas hydrates).

Currently we are emitting about 9 billion metric tons of Methane from man-made sources and we emit about 36 billion metric tons of CO2.  We can control this by using biogas plants that burn the methane before releasing it.

Natural emissions comes from Methane molecules trapped in water and rock. In order to get out of those places, they have to "uncage" from those traps. This is an Arrhenius dynamics, the rate of escape rises exponentially with temperature. Once we trigger a temperature rise with other emissions , natural sources will start spitting out their Methane, and there will be no way to stop them. We CANNOT shut the natural sources OFF.

You may have seen photos like this one from Siberia [1]

Some sources estimate that there are 7000 such bubbles built up under Siberia right now. The number is somewhat academic as we do not know when they will burst or how much Methane they will release.

Once natural desequestration gets going, the attendant release of Methane will promptly raise the temperature and that in turn will cause more releases and so on. This latter process is called a runaway. Once the runaway gets going - there will be no way to stop the global temperature rise.

I fully understand the perspective of lay people - that the information about emission is very technical and hard to understand and full of numbers, but let me simplify this for you.

If you don't stop the man made emissions of Methane asap, you can kiss the human race good bye.

As the temperature rises, the rate of natural Methane release will increase to the point where the temperature will go up regardless of whatever your "feelings" about "Climate Change" are. Once the global temperature rises by 3-4 degrees, the attending ecological and economic shifts will decimate the population.

If you are worried about some reptilian controlled New World Order secret plotting the end of your race - look no further than the mirror - you are looking at the people who are intent on genocide.

I understand it is too hard to let go of your big truck with the word "Trump" painted on the back.

I understand you are too stupid to get off your ass, leave the big screen TV and go plant some trees.

But at least get behind aggressive biogas exploitation- it will create local jobs and help the farmers you all fantasize about being.

Friday, October 20, 2017

With All Due Respect to My Fellow Americans

I keep hearing incessant whining about how the "Master Race" in America is going down and how Muslim countries are ripping off the USA for gas, and China is taking all the jobs and Mexicans are all MS13, and fuckin Canadians are doing ... I dunno whatever fuckin Canadians do.

That's all fine but here is a few facts that you might want to remember

1) The Muslims are selling America gas - BUT Americans are buying it and *wasting* it. You want to reduce the power of this lobby on American national affairs? Here is a helpful hint - DONT USE SO MUCH FUCKIN GAS!! buy a fuel efficient car, DON"T UNNECESSARILY BUY A BIG TRUCK - coz all that says is you have a small penis and like covering yourself in free Saudi oil.

2) The Chinese are taking all the jobs - BUT that is how the big corporations are showing profits by cutting down on manufacturing labor and environment related costs. Those profits are finding their way into YOUR IRA, YOUR SS Check and YOUR Medicaid costs. Without those profits - you would still be working your ass off like your Grandfather was during the depression era, the Cuyahoga would still be on fire and you wouldn't be able to afford a hospital visit.

3) Mexican are MS13 - Actual MS-13 is a Salvadorean thing but yes Mexicans cartels to smuggle drugs into the US - BUT - it is Americans who shoot those drugs into their own veins. That last part is a fucking choice you make. Don't blame the Mexicans for your own failings.

4) Those  fucking Canadians - Yeah so lets talk about what those "Canadians" are doing for a second.

Here are some links

1) Canadian dairy farms in Alberta are using biogas to diversify their output and they are succeeding
(check out this link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sINnoKBda8&t=25s)

2) Canadian mining towns in British Columbia are shifting to a green energy and tourism based economies (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QG7YQ76KHmU)

3) Canada is putting up wind turbines where they can (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa5IRKERQNs)

There are people who are doing this the US too - but they do not get anywhere near the support they should from the rest of us.

So my fellow Americans please

A ) Stop whining about what "others" are doing to you and look at what you are doing to yourself.

B) Take personal responsibility for your carbon footprint and make the necessary changes

  • Start small with something like "Food Localization" [1
  • Put on a sweater instead of turning up the heat 
  • Drive less - walk more! 
C) Also Biogas is the new coal/oil/natural gas/whatever word you like to put here. There are 2200 biogas systems deployed today. We could in theory put down at least 13000 or so. More if we decide to setup household level systems that process human and food waste. This would greatly reduce the weight and volume of waste that has to be moved around. So please get on the biogas wagon. 

If you don't do this - there will be a massive shock when you are forced to change by failing economic circumstances. 

If America is avoid going the way of the dinosaurs, then we must stop wasting the resources we have been gifted here. 

Also for God's sake - Stop Trump before he kills NAFTA - that is going to destroy the MidWestern economy. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Tax Cuts and the Stock Markets

The tax system is definitely biased towards the rich. Vox came up with an "explainer" video on how Tax cuts benefit the rich asymmetrically.

I wish to clarify "rich" people as defined here are people who rely solely on investment income. This income is taxed at a much lower rate than earned income. This is already a huge boost to people who seek to play the market as a means to get wealthy. With the proliferation of investment tools, it has become too easy for ordinary people who are otherwise risk averse to be lured into poorly secured investments in the stock market.

The video is pretty instructive in that it tells you that a 5% tax cut results in a lot more actual $ being transferred to a rich person's wallet than your own but it doesn't tell you how this affects the stock markets.

There are two mechanisms by which it can affect the stock market.

1) In anticipation of a large tax cut, rich people will boost speculative pricing bubbles. These bubbles have the benefit of making their income seeing larger. That in turn will allow them to claim a larger dollar amount as a cut.

2) If a tax cut does not materialize then the rich are forced to deflate the stock market. Unless they do this, they will not be able to reduce the amount of money they owe as taxes. They make money by deflating the stock market because they pay less tax.

Here is a simple example.

If I am super rich and I have $1B in a portfolio I invested in at the beginning of the year and the market grows at 20% throughout the year. Then when I sell my portfolio at the end of the year, I have made $200M as investment income. This should get taxed at say 23.8%. I would end up owing Uncle Sam about $47M. If Trump gives me a 10% tax cut, then my earning would be taxed at the 13.8% rate so I would owe only about $27M. I would have "made" an extra $20M thanks to Donald Trump.

Now Donald Trump fails to deliver on the tax rate cut, I would still want to "make" $20M, I would do whatever it takes to drop the value of my income to $113M. Taxed at the original rate, I would end up paying $27M. Since my income is directly tied to growth rate of the market, I would have to see my portfolio grow at 50% the rate of the market's current 20%  AGR.

Since my investment income is calculated on an annual basis. To move its net growth rate down by 50% after half of the year is over, I would need to freeze the portfolio value at its current level. If I had to drop the annual growth rate to 50% after 2/3 of the year was over, I would have to drop the value by 10%. As we get closer and closer to the end of the year, my portfolio has to shrink massively in order for me to keep the amount of tax I pay the same (see graph below).

In order to get there, I would need to start selling my own stock at a much lower price than it is currently valued or at volumes that would cause the price to drop. This should be okay as I had deliberately stoked speculation that had over-valued it in anticipation of a tax cut.

This is why Secy Mnuchin says that if the tax cuts are not passed the market will collapse. [1]

Unfortunately for my toy model, in reality I am not the only player in the stock market. There are others who may seek a very different reduction in the value of their own portfolio, so if I start something, there is no guarantee it will stop when I want it to. This creates a lot of room for political pressures and factional dynamics. You may recall the role of the bankers' pool led by J P Morgan in 1929. They wanted the crash to stop but it didn't and that landed them in a hole they didn't want to be in.

This is obviously overly simplified, but it should give you a snapshot of what is likely in the near future.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

GW170817 - A truly great day in science

I am sure we have all heard about the astounding discovery revealed two days ago (if not here is a good YouTube vid about it).  

I also managed to find this interesting summary data slide on AMVA4NP . People are saying this is the beginning of "Multi-Messenger Astrophysics". 

This is a really busy slide - but as you can see on it, the neutron star coalescence was observed in a galaxy approx 150 MLY away.  This kind of event releases a lot of energy and its called a Kilonova.

The event generated a massive electromagnetic emission (Gamma Ray Burst, X-ray burst, UV etc...) . You can see what this looked like on various cameras (bottom). The big black spot is the galactic center - there are millions of stars emitting light in there. And the two black lines are where we see light from the kilonova event. You can see it is almost as intense as the galactic center in some images. This really brings out how much energy was released in this event. I am guessing it probably vaporized thousands of star systems in a 100+ LY ball around it.

There is going to be a lot of discussion around this in the months and years to come, but I want to bring up one point which you can all see in the top left part of the slide.

The Gravitational Waves (GW) arrived a full 14 seconds before Gamma Ray Burst (GRB). I am assuming that the time stamps on LIGO and the GRS are well aligned but as both GW and GRB travel at the speed of light, this implies that the space time distortion caused by the event predated the electromagnetic jetting phenomena (which is where a GRB arises) by about 12-14 seconds. The space time distortion peaked a full 2s before the GRB jet developed and escaped the surface of the coalesced stellar mass.

There is some amazing high energy density physics to be modeled here. We are going to learn a lot from the differences in time between these signals.

Some significant developments in digital security this year

We have had a steady stream of bad news on the cyber security front. It is hard to keep all that straight and make sense of where it is all going.  I will attempt to summarize it here.

1) Early in the year, we heard whispers in news reports about RIS led attacks on the electoral systems in 2016. These were later confirmed by DHS officials in Congressional and Senate testimony. This is bad because it means your voter information can be modified and if your state or county uses some form of screening (they all do) to remove suspect voters from their rolls, your voting rights could be terminated.

2) In February of this year, the first SHA-1 collision was calculated. SHA-1 (and similar protocols) are used to sign documents over the internet. These protocols were thought to be unbreakable, but it was found that this is not actually true. Since document signing is at the core of all software updates to your personal devices (mobile, computer etc...) the detection of a SHA-1 collision has massive impact on the apparent security of digital information. While advanced protocols are being used in place of SHA-1, the idea that these may not be as secure as imagined is quite frightening.

3) Last year, there were rumors that Kaspersky AV was penetrated by RIS backed hackers. The rumors have now been reported in the lay press as being sourced to Israel intelligence. Apparently Israeli intelligence penetrated Kaspersky and found out that RIS was using the AV software to open backdoors into every computer on that used it.

4) The credit reporting service Equifax was hacked and the personal information (address, SSN, DOB) etc... of 143 million US residents was compromised. This is the digital equivalent of a Pearl Harbor, but no one seems to have quite figured that out yet. As people went to look at the Equifax site and report incidents of fraud, they were greeted by a large number of fake flash updates. The malware attempted to pass itself off as a Equifax product that customers should install on their computers.

5) WPA2 - a protocol used to secure WiFi communications critical to the functioning of mobile and IoT devices was determined to have a massive vulnerability in it. This is collectively called the "Krack Attack". No patches are available as of today for this. We are flying on a wing and a prayer here.

6) The NSA TAO's tool kit allegedly leaked out on to the internet early this year. The NSA detected a loss of these tools and informed various vendors to patch their breaches but it is unclear how effective the patches have been at containing the threat.

7) Yahoo finally admitted that something like 3 Billion of its accounts had been compromised in a security breach last year. The timing of this admission is important, it suggests something more than the usual level of incompetence is at play.

8) MSFT informed us yesterday that their main server containing information about bugs and hacking attempts/malware was breached about four years ago. Again - it is the timing of this admission that I feel reflects a growing sense of insecurity in MSFT.

9) (Thanks Kevin T). Deloitte was hacked and information pertaining to many government clients was accessed. We know very little about this. This is bad as Deloitte usually performs sensitive accounting services for a variety of big companies. Apparently Deloitte did not have MFA implemented on one of its admin accounts.

I feel two things are still somewhat viable

1) MFA - Multi Factor Authentication - this can get expensive but it may be the only way to secure critical information.

2) PGP - As this is based on the still NP -Hard prime factorization and random key generation problem, it is hoped that separate transmission of encrypted key and data will ensure good security.

That said all the breaches described above reduce the barrier to impersonation attacks.

Neither MFA nor PGP are secure against impersonation.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Deza - How it really works.

This is a really good article by Micheal Weiss on the use of "Deza" (disinformation) by RIS throughout history. This matter has become quite important especially after the events of 2016. A great deal of the public understanding of these issues can be traced back to the writings of John Barron (NOT Trump's non-existent publicist).

The basic narrative underpinning Deza is the same every time.

1) RU lies
2) Fools believe RU lies.
3) RU lives happily ever after.

Unfortunately that is not how it works IRL.

After RU lies - it pays to have the lie trafficked. That part costs money, and it is usually money RU does not have. So after step 2 in the ideal deza cycle, the "other side" lies back, this sparks an arms race in lies. To win this arms race - RIS must seek out cheaper ways of trafficking its lies than the other side.  The RIS ways need to be a factor of ten or so cheaper because RU is very low on actual resources. If the race goes against the RU's favor, then the RIS will go into "Stalingrad" mode. In this mode - it cannot be said who wins - because even if the RIS "prevails", the cost of "victory" is staggering.

The article offers up the historical example of General Ivan Agayants of the FCD's D Department. This is a spymaster of considerable stature and one must see him in the context of the USSR's disastrous WWII experience. Gen. Agayants grew up in a world where even a morsel of bread was hard to come by. To him the real challenge was how to traffic Soviet lies without running up a huge bill. It is natural that he came up with the scheme Micheal describes.

In my opinion, the choices made by Gen. Agayants reflect the reality of these operations. It is difficult in such an operation to maintain control over the situation for long periods of time. It is akin to starting a fire in the forest, yes the dead wood will burn but I don't think it is possible to make a fire burn selectively. One can even say that there is a physics about these types of jobs, they have to operate withing a very narrow region - the intention of the initiator cannot be exposed, and the actors in this farce should not wander off script. While the exposure of the initiator is not always bad, most spymasters loathe operations that wander out of the zone of control. While the exposure of the originator can be passed off as "necessary" measures put in place by the spymaster to communicate their nation's point of view, the uncontrolled behavior of perceived assets suggest incompetence. No spymaster wants to be thought of as being incompetent.

I feel that when it was clear to Gen. Agayants that the deza campaign was not going to move the needle vis-a-vis German participation in NATO, his zeal for an operation like this would have dropped. As the likelihood of exposure became higher, his actions would have become tempered by the thoughts of a CIA led riposte and when latent anti-semitism began to independently drive the phenomenon, he would have decided to wash his hands off the whole thing. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be known as the Soviet spymaster who reincubated Nazism? - right after WWII? at a time when the USSR was already facing nuclear attack by the United States?... I confess I don't know the man, but I doubt Gen. Agayants craved for such accolades.

The article wisely points out that the internet has lowered the cost of trafficking lies for the RIS but one must remember it has lowered the barrier for counter-lying as well. I think here lies the key to resolving the current crisis.

Some useful links to educate yourself

1) Hamilton 68 Initiative  
2) The KGB Today - by John Barron
3) KGB - The Secret Hand - by John Barron
4) Russian Disinformation Technology - by John Pollock

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A grim reality has begun to sink in

Among seasoned watchers of troubles (such as yours truly) a grim reality has begun to sink in. As Inspector Pandit once said to Inspector Purohit in the movie Maqbool

Ladki mangali hain, laashon ke dher pey say vida ho key jayegi..
(The bride is cursed, the recessional will walk over a mound of corpses)

Donald Trump insists on playing the Madman when there is no real national security reason to do so. 

As the TrumpRussia probe nears its logical conclusion - Trump's sense of desperation grows. 

Even if the probe does not directly accuse him of treason, it will nail his kids for the same. Trump knows that he will not able to pardon his kids. Once the kids face the prospect of prison, family secrets and skeletons in the cupboard will come crawling out.  These secrets once public will poison his ability to feel any form of joy over the power he apparently enjoys.  A decent and real man would take responsibility for everything and save his family in the process but Donald Trump is none of those things. 

Given how much he has hanging on the sex crimes, the money laundering and treason front, Trump knows there is little hope of him ever functioning as a normal US President would. There is so little for him to get a sense of positive energy there that he routinely retreats to his golf courses where he can avoid thinking about this. 

Trump's only avenue to a sense of empowerment is picking a fight with the GOP and getting something useful (to him) out of them. There is only one thing that would be truly useful - a kind of Nixonian get-out-of-jail-free card. Trump clings to the hope that he will be able to get such a card from the GOP and weasel his personal way out of this. If his family is sacrificed in the process, he seems to be okay with as long as they don't talk about the horrible stuff he has done to them.  He probably believes he can silence them for good. 

Unfortunately no such card exists. The GOP cannot make such a card up. It is already suffering a massive corrosion of public confidence on account of its association with Donald Trump. Even if the GOP was on firm electoral footing, it cannot afford to hand out such a card because no one can truly know how toxic Trump's links to sex crimes, money laundering and Putin's RIS really are. Such a card would become a millstone around the necks of GOP staffers for the rest of eternity. 

Trump cannot get his head around the absence of such a card. His entire sense of self-worth rests on the ability to save his own skin and when it has to be explained to him that no such thing is possible, his narcissistic mind turns to thoughts of a destructive nature. 

It is in this context that one must see his behavior towards North Korea.  It is IMHO foolish to paint what Trump does as a "Madman Gambit" - when it is more correctly simply the actions of a madman!

He is goading KJU into a nuclear war. 

What Trump does not grasp in his feeble mind is that when deterrence breaks down vis-a-vis North Korea (say because KJU felt intense use/lose pressures)  - it breaks down globally - No one will take that idea seriously ever again. This will completely re-write global military balances that rely on nuclear offsets to shortages in conventional deterrence regimes. 

At this time Chinese and Russian national security strategists are wondering how to cope with the inevitable fallout of a failure of the "Madman Gambit". As the idea of deterrence will be badly mauled by that outcome, they must prepare for a nuclear war. 

In 1983 the Russians could not distinguish between Reagan's "Madman" act and the reality of the Able Archer exercise in Europe. They misconstrued the exercise as a prelude to a sudden nuclear strike and brought their entire nuclear arsenal to a state of maximal alert without any of the usual signaling. Out planet stood on the precipice of nuclear annihilation and not even those paid to know about were actually aware of it. 

I feel we are in a similar place. We are extremely close to the edge and there will be no positive resolution time around. The last time around sane people were able to de-escalate and reduce the build up of tension. President Reagan for all his flaws *listened* to his advisers. That is NOT where we are now.  

When major experts in the US are discussing potential ways to interrupt the nuclear chain of command - then you know you are in deep shit.  

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Is Russia's domestic ONG distribution network critical to its political survival?

We know that Russia relies on ONG exports to shore up its GDP. Based on GovRU figures, these exports account about 20% of the GDP.

The general sense among Russia watchers is that profits from these exports go towards shoring up the RU political system - specifically
  1. lining the pockets of the oligarchs (including Putin), 
  2. keeping the RU Military-Industrial complex happy, and 
  3. subsidizing the internal distribution of essential commodities. 
Traditionally political analysis of RU has focused on the first two stabilization mechanisms. I propose we think carefully about the third item on that list.

Geographically speaking Russia is unique - no other country matches it in terms of climate and length of East-West logistical chains. You might be tempted to thing that Canada or Scandinavian countries are similar - but they really do not have the anywhere near the logistical problems. To get a sense of this compare photos of RU at night with other countries. You can see a cluster of lights at the eastern edge of the Northern European plain (where the Grand Duchy of Moscow historically resided) and you can see a small belt of lights lining the Sea of Okhotsk but in between the two (across the expanse of Siberia) you only see a few thin strands of light. One of these is the Trans Siberian railway and the others are the extremely few roads in Siberia. This image reinforces the critical nature of Siberia to Russia. 

I find it helps to think of Russia as an ocean dotted with islands big and small. The islands are connected mainly by railway lines and roads. Under Russian climatic conditions there is a significant amount of thermal cycling which tends to rip up the road and cause railway tracks to become mis-aligned. This raises the cost to maintain each mile of road or railway. The weather also does a number on the rolling stock and vehicle fleets. It appears that the GovRU bears most of the costs associated with the road and rail maintenance and the Russian people bear the cost of maintenance in terms of fuel costs and vehicle repair.

It is no surprise to me that the despite being a major global ONG producer, the average Russian pays 5-10x more than the average Canadian or American for a gallon of gas and that the vehicle repair industry is one of the biggest contributors to the Services portion of the Russian GDP.  

Another point of interest is that while Russia has a GDP that is 5x smaller than the US in PPP terms, its GHG emissions per capita are only 60% of US numbers. This strongly points to the fact that the average Russian consumes much more carbon per unit of productivity than the average American. Add that to the fact that RU life expectancy is much lower than US life expectancy and one realizes that despite burning so much carbon - the Russians don't get a whole lot out of it. 

These subtle comparisons reflect the true scale of the Russian internal distribution problem. Russian ONG is more expensive to mine and more expensive to distribute *within* Russia. As the price of gas finds its way into the cost of every commodity, we see that everything that is derived from ONG is more expensive in RU. As Russian lifestyles evolve to a much higher energy intensive variants we are likely to see the domestic pressures rise. 

I think this sets up some interesting thoughts

1)  The notion that a low international oil price is "something Russia can live with" is not really sustainable. A high international oil price makes it much easier for Russia to transfer the high costs of its own internal distribution on to international buyers. The Russians will be happiest when selling the tiniest possible amount of oil internationally will be enough for them to supply it at a much lower price at the pump locally. 

2) Historically Russia has always managed to keep its populations satisfied by dumping relatively small quantities of ONG, food and coal on the domestic market. But as peoples' expectations of lifestyles change, Moscow will have to dole out more to keep people happy. It is not clear if Moscow's distribution system can keep up with the extra demand. It is also not clear if Moscow can scavenge enough resources to keep this going without a dramatic increase in the exploitation of Siberian reserves. 

3) It may no longer be possible to view Siberia as a place where nothing really happens. Given the resources it possesses and the fact that it sits right in the middle of the East-West supply chain - Siberia will most likely make or break modern Russia. The economics of exploiting Siberian reserves is challenging. You have to put a lot in to get even a little bit out. It is not clear if Russia can raise the capital needed for an economically viable exploitation of Siberia. 

It may be worthwhile to take a closer look at the distribution network for essential commodities inside Russia. It may inform us about the shape of things to come.* 

* I am not discounting the traditional measures like the political temperature of the cities, the shifts in vodka consumption but I suspect risk leaving out a rich vein of knowledge if we completely ignore the economics of internal distribution inside Russia.