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08 July 2017

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Eric Newhill

Shepard,
Oh no. I understand what it is and how it works. As I said, I am in a very large insurance company. We use market segment data to augment other data we have to understand what kind of covered lives we might be looking at and what we might expect in terms of healthcare costs. There is also some marketing of other products and services based on all this supplemental big data (supplemental beyond health claims data and demographics). Then there is predictive modeling that is being developed for proactively identifying who may need a care management outreach call before - and to prevent - a serious healthcare incident.

So a but different than what you are referring to, but I do both attend conferences where the wider spectrum of potentials is discussed and I talk to people in the industry. Like I said, I have hired people that have worked developing IT for Facebook, Google and various aps who had implemented a lot of this. I love to discuss this stuff with them because it interests me. And I'm always looking to leverage new tech for increased profitability and/or improved quality for our members.

I am fully aware of what Facebook is doing. Everyone thinks it is this wonderful free playground. They do not suspect that they are the product; not the consumer.

I think the real magic in all of that is that the content of text (e.g. FB posts and comments) can be read and analyzed appropriately...and quickly. That IS amazing. That any real insight into who people really are and what they really think - as it translates into action in the real world can be gleaned, is a less perfected aspect, IMO. Influencing the real world actions of the targets is yet more sketchy.

As I said to TTG down thread, there are too many variables at play; not the least of which are all of the various actors who are inputting information; including individuals themselves. I do not see how a single player could gain a monopoly on influence. If one somehow did, I do not see it lasting long. People would just migrate to a new environment where they would be free of unwanted propaganda once they noticed. I know that you think you can outsmart people, but I disagree. Some people sure. Then you get stuck with a non-representative sample, that might be ok for marketing products, but not so good for understanding or influencing an election cycle (kind of like how all the big polls and the DNC had Clinton winning last year).

You can fool some of the people some of the time, but.....

CNN, a major propaganda outlet is being brought down because they listen to the advice of all these out of touch - and, frankly, arrogant conceited, marketing firms with all this wiz bang tech stuff. Meanwhile, the alt right and others have hijacked Facebook and the other info gathering centers to make very effective anti-CNN memes from their parents' basements.

Zuckerberg and his army of data miners are not as in control as the fantasize they are. Therefore, I become even more suspicious of all the AI produced intelligence. Seems like it's always a day late and a dollar short. Rust never sleeps.

Donald

I didn't miss that rotl. I just didn't take it seriously. I don't believe the Russians have discovered some new science based way to mind control us with propaganda, something unknown to Western ad agencies and political campaign consultants and governments here.

And do people really believe that it took Russian mind hacking to make Hillary Clinton unpopular? I am a lefty and I have disliked the Clintons from the moment they appeared on the national scene and I voted for her. Rightly or wrongly ( I think it is a bit of both) they have been hated for decades. They also have their passionate defenders. One way or another they are probably the targets of more propaganda, good and bad, than any other two politicians in our lifetime, though Trump may surpass them. The Russian spinmeisters are coming into this very late.

Lefty

TTG, Perhaps you could do your friend favor to let him know he has fallen in with bad company and that he or Alperovitch should go. But, if he is even half as bright as you believe he is he should have figured that out long and merry ago.

It seems VIPS and Binney's conclusions were well founded as we can infer from Brennan's "assessment". If he had NSA confirmation that massive loads of DNC data headed overseas it would have been all over the report. It was not. That is a Sherlockian "Dog that didn't bark". He instead relied on "foreign sources" that NSA apparently did not think too much of. That NSA had merely "Moderate" confidence indirectly confirms that NSA does not have the smoking packets. They are damning with faint (moderate confidence) praise. That is about as much as we can expect from them in public. It also seems likely that NSA would have preferred not to be involved in what looks like a CIA propaganda campaign turned domestic.

Here is an analysis that purports to show that at least the Guccifer 2.0 docs were downloaded. The implication is that they were part of a far larger download that could have been what ended up at Wikileaks. http://disobedientmedia.com/2017/07/new-research-shows-guccifer-2-0-files-were-copied-locally-not-hacked/

Lefty

Some of the engineering "boys in D.C." had a little different take on the origin, but the outcomes were just as you describe. It would not be surprising to find it was a joint exercise with Bell Labs as many things were. Expect it is even easier with current phones.

Eric Newhill

Fred,
True, But the Candy Crush data is joined to data from many other sources to create a complete profile. Candy Crush is actually one of the games that I was told, specifically, is manipulated along frustration level lines. One manipulation is simply to get users to purchase clues; or something like a clue - never played so don't know exactly what it is your purchase, but that is the gist of it. But also, that data on your frustration level is the kind that Shepard is talking about.

We know who you are because the phone service is tied to you directly or indirectly through social security number, credit card, etc.

Eric Newhill

Sam,
We use ML to great effect in our fraud detection unit. As you say it picks up anomalies very well. Sifts right through 100s of millions of medical claims and detects anomalous provider billing patterns very nicely. The anomalies are also what KHC sees as one of the best uses. So there's three of us users in agreement.

It's also very good at revealing things like physician referral patterns. We see that certain physicians refer to the more expensive specialists or surgical centers. We can then talk to them about referring to cheaper ones. We can analyze medical outcomes for quality and price by servicing provider, by referring provider, by member demographic, by medical condition....keep adding layers of detail until we can really understand what is happening in our business in the real world. Great stuff.

We can assess a new market based on all kinds of demographic data joined to all that external data from vendors and build a profile that tells us what we need to charge in premium. These models are becoming very refined in terms of being on the money. This is actually quite predictive in nature.

However, it is totally different from the Russian (or anyone) causing someone to do what they weren't going to do by inserting some message on their facebook feed based on how easily the person angers.

TonyL

I have not examined closely other bullet points. But Conclusion 3 is not definitive, 7, and 9 are likely wrong.

"Conclusion 3: The DNC files may have been copied using the ‘cp‘ command (which is available on Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X in some form).
This (tentative) conclusion is supported by the observation that all of the file last modified times were changed to the apparent time of the copy operation."

There are ways other than using cp command to get the mentioned result.

"Conclusion 7.
We can shorten this statement and say that the 23 MB/s transfer rate supports the conclusion that the files were initially copied locally and not over the Internet."

A transfer rate of 23 MB/s is not too fast over the Internet. If you know how to do it.

"Conclusion 9: The final copy (on 9/1/2016) from the initial file collection to working directories was likely done with a conventional drag-and-drop style of copy.
This conclusion is based on the observation that the file last modified times were preserved when copying from the initial collection to the working copies, unlike the first copy operation on 7/5/2016 (which is attributed to the use of the cp command)."

In Linux system, without using drag-drop style, there are commands that can make the creation timestamp and modified timestamp of files to be any timestamp you want (does not matter how you copy the files).

TonyL

And Conclusion 2 is not definitive either.

"Conclusion 2: The DNC files were first copied to a file system that was formatted either as an NTFS file system (typically used on Windows systems) or to a Linux (ext4) file system. This conclusion is supported by the observation that the .rar file(s) show file last modified times (mtime) with 7 significant decimal digits (0.1 microsecond resolution) ; this is a characteristic of NTFS file systems."

This characteristic can be forced on files in Linux file system. So we can't say it NTFS.

Fred

KHC,

"...humans ARE indeed predictable. I would say that, proverbially, what 99% of people do 99% of the time can be predicted with utter precision if enough data about their routines are captured."

I certainly understand the basic concept, that's why Detroit traffic can be bumper to bumper at 70 mph for most of a commute, at least until something disrupts it. However there are other more complex things to human behavior than driving in rush hour. To play devil's advocate If humans from a place, say Somalia, relocate to Minnesota they are going to recreate thier routines from Somalia long before they "change" i.e. assimilate, thus things like female genital mutilation, which never existed in Minnesota before, become a predictable routine. How long until what was a culturally acceptable pattern in one place is dropped in favor of what is culturally acceptable in the new locale?

Fred

Eric,

In reference to the referal patterns do you also look at the ownership of the refered to provider? Way back in the '70s the folks in Naples, FL had a major scandal with the local non-profit hospital because a large number of doctors were making referals for services to various providers outside the hospital rather than the in-house center because they jointly owned the things. They weren't over priced, just over-refered too to generate a greater income. Where in the data do you determine a procedure/test just wasn't necessary?

Fred

On a slightly off topic but still IT security related subject, never use a fingerprint for a password:
https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/07/self-service-food-kiosk-vendor-avanti-hacked/

kao_hsien_chih

Sam and Eric,

One of my friends described statistics (and by extension, ML) as using the past to predict the past, which I always thought is the appropriate description. The patterns of the past can be a useful prediction for the future on the condition that tomorrow is like yesterday, and, usually, this is true enough that we can get by, as long as things stay close enough. If we get enough technology and data, we might do better about predicting yesterday, and this, in turn, might help better predict tomorrow. But the assumption that tomorrow will be like yesterday is a big leap of faith which I don't think is often justified when we actually need good predictions.

kao_hsien_chih

Well, that gets beyond the scope of what I was talking about: data, if there is enough, will allow for identification of routines, habits, and other "behavioral patterns," but anyone who would be trying to draw data and pattern recognition to make moral claims one way or another would be insane, I think.

Eric Newhill

Fred, briefly b/c we are straying from the topic, yes as to ownership. Medical necessity is based of random sample of actual provider records. All providers that contract with us agree that we can request the medical record from the physician's office. If it isn't properly documented in the chart it didn't happen. So all the necessary diagnoses and nuances had better be there or it wasn't medically necessary or appropriate. Just a little of the standard work that the evil insurance company does every day to waste money, LOL.

Degringolade

TTG: Good work...some of the responses here give much grist for thought.

I am not certain who is right here, I am going through linux commands and trying to get a look at the originals, but truth be told, they have been through so many wash and rinse cycles I despair of ever getting anything useful done. For me, it mostly an academic exercise to see that (if anything) I reproduce from the data available.

I think that what I have treasured the most about this conversation is the fact that it pushes against the "status quo" thinking out there.

A good article for all to read is

http://thefutureprimaeval.net/the-overton-bubble/

TimmyB

A critique of TTG’s recent post.

I am not a computer expert. However, I have been a practicing attorney for over 20-years. Thus, I have some experience in dealing with so-called “expert opinions” such as those contained in TTG’s recent letter. I will go over TTG’s letter and try to expose some of the logic flaws contained therein. I have used the sections of TTG’s original letter and written my response to those highlighted sections directly below each highlighted section.

"You, David Habakkuk and many others seem to rely on the questionable parentage and demeanor of Dimitri Alperovitch to justify your conviction that Russia had nothing to do with the DNC or Podesta hacks or did not attempt to influence our 2016 election."

This assertion, that critics of Crowdstrike’s conclusions “rely on the questionable parentage and demeanor of Dimitri Alperovitch” is a false and misleading attempt at a disgusting smear. No one who has read the criticism of Crowdstrike’s report can honestly claim that the criticism relies on Mr. Alperovitch parentage. Contrary to that false assertion, this is actually what critics actually say about Mr. Alperovitch:
“The firm’s CTO and co-founder, Dmitri Alperovitch, is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank with openly anti-Russian sentiments that is funded by Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk, who also happened to donate at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.”

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/23/cybersecurity-firm-that-attributed-dnc-hacks-to-russia-may-have-fabricated-russia-hacking-in-ukraine.

Critics are noting that Mr. Alperovitch belongs to anti-Russian groups and that he may be prejudiced against Russia and thus predisposed to find a Russian connection where the evidence for such a connection is weak. Those critics are certainly not bigots who are mainly relying on Mr. Alperovitch’s parentage to dispute Crowdstrike’s claims. Here. TTG is smearing Crowdstrike’s critics as bigots and implying criticism of Crowdstrike is based on little more than bigotry.

Note that TTG chose to lead with this emotionally charged smear, instead of leading with factual evidence proving his case. TTG’s choice to use such a smear to open his argument highlights exactly how devoid of facts and evidence his argument is.

"Beyond your reasonable and justifiable skepticism of the IC, I think you’re all trying too hard to exonerate Putin and prevent any besmirchment of the immaculate glory of Trump’s election to the Presidency of the United States."

This bit of argument attempts to flip the burden of evidence from Russian accusers having to provide actual facts supporting the assertion that there was Russian interferience and/or a Trump-Russia conspiracy to sceptics who must now must show facts that “exonerate Putin and prevent any besmirchment of the immaculate glory of Trump’s election to the Presidency of the United States.” Unfortunately for TTG, the burden still remains with the person making the claim. We will see if TTG provides the required evidence and facts supporting his claims.

"Alperovitch did not run the team... That continued once he retired from the FBI and began working at CrowdStrike."

While the FBI’s capabilities are notable, they have nothing to do with Crowdstrike’s. Crowdstrike and the FBI are not the same organization and Crowdstrike does not have access to US government information.

" Those in the FBI who took CrowdStrike’s research probably did so because of Henry’s reputation." 

Here, TTG is speculating that the FBI believed Crowdstrike’s assertions because of Henry’s reputation. However, this speculation is further confirmation that the FBI did not do its own independent investigation of the supposed DNC server hack. All this means is Crowdstrike is the sole source of the claim the Russians hacked the DNC email server. Thus, every single claim that the FBI made some sort of independent conclusion about the alleged DNC hack is completely false. The FBI never performed an independent investigation. The FBI never made its own conclusions. Instead, it relied solely upon Crowdstrike.

"And why didn’t the DNC turn their email servers over..."

This excuse is little more than claiming “I didn’t allow the police to investigate the break in because I had a meth-lab in my house." TTG should be embarrassed. Here, the DNC refused to allow the FBI to fully investigate what it now claims are serious violations of federal law by a hostile foreign power aimed at undercutting our country's entire democracy. The reason? It’s because the DNC placed a higher value upon secrecy and Hillary Clinton's presidential ambitions. That excuse is sorely lacking.

"That’s just as prudent as Trump not voluntarily handing over detailed records of his business and..."

This is nonsense. It is designed to equate Trump, who has not accused anyone of committing a crime, with the DNC’s failure to cooperate with the FBI after it accused a foreign power of stealing its private documents. Let me confess that I, like hundreds of millions of other Americans, didn’t provide all my financial and other documents to the FBI, same as Trump. That’s because, same as Trump, I wasn’t asked to assist an investigation of my claims that a foreign power stole my emails.

"According to William Binney, the FBI does not need the DNC servers to conduct their investigation.”

While it is undisputed the NSA has the ability described above, Crowdstrike most certainly does not. The NSA’s abilities are not Crowdstrike’s to use.

"Binney and his VIPS cosigners... must not exist and the hacks must be leaks."

This is false. Other individuals, including the head of Wikileaks which published the DNC emails, stated the information came from leakers. Julian Assange said it was leakers. The NSA hasn’t put fourth any evidence showing it was hackers. Thus, when we consider the actual evidence before us, instead of the secret evidence that we can’t see and don’t even know if it exists, then TTG hasn’t met his burden and proved the DNC was hacked and the DNC emails were stolen by Russia.

"Presumably that means there was a DNC leaker and a separate Google leaker for the Podesta emails..."

Podesta gave his Gmail password up in response to a phishing email. http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/how-john-podesta-got-hacked-839125 That fact is beyond dispute. No one has claimed that the Podesta emails were the result of a leak instead of a hack. The Podesta emails and the DNC emails are two completely different incidents. Here, TTG is attempting to conflate the two together. However, the Podesta incident has exactly zero in common with the supposed DNC hacking. The Podesta phishing attack could have been done by half the Jr. High School students in the US or any other computer literate country. So it actually is completely logical to conclude the supposed DNC hack and the Podesta phishing incident were carried out by different individuals.

"There is no publicly available convincing evidence of any of these hacks."

This is an astounding admission. It’s true and it cuts right to the core of the sceptic’s claims---“There is no publicly available convincing evidence of any of these hacks.” Since TTG admits there is no convincing evidence, there is really no need to go on further. The case that the DNC hacks occurred and that the Russians are behind that hack, as TTG admits, remains unproven because there is no publicly available convincing evidence.

There is classified evidence of many of these hacks. I have seen much of it..."  

Sadly, because of the lies my government has repeatedly told over the years, I will not believe its claims without evidence or proof. I am willing to wait for evidence to prove or disprove claims, but until such evidence is provided, the claim that the DNC was hacked and the Russians did it remains unproven.

"Separate from CrowdStrike, Kevin Mandia’s FireEye...”

Years ago, so-called experts on fiber analysis claimed they could tell, via microscopic examination of fiber evidence, that different fibers came from the same cloth. Different experts claimed to be able to tell, using microscopic examination, whether or not different hairs came from the same person. Finally, there were other experts, dentists in fact, who claimed that they had the ability to look at the impressions made by a criminal suspect’s teeth and determine if a bite pattern on a murder victim was made by a particular set of teeth.

Each of these, fiber analysis, hair analysis, and bite mark analysis have been found to be junk science. See “Pseudoscience in the Witness Box” http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2015/04/fbi_s_flawed_forensics_expert_testimony_hair_analysis_bite_marks_fingerprints.html So, unless TTG can produce evidence showing that computer experts can scientifically without error identify a hacker by the hacking tools he or she uses, then we should not believe their claims.

All this addresses only one aspect of the Russian IO... Those who don’t will go extinct.

This too is meaningless mishmash. Every government and every large corporation puts out propaganda. However, using the DNC emails and the Podest hack as examples is flawed at best. Both were widely reported in national newspapers such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. These stories were also reported in local newspapers in addition to national and local television and radio news programs.

However, the “Russian did it” claim seems to be that the Russians used the internet to circulate these stories and “weaponize” them. This conclusion completely depends upon people ignoring how widely these stories about the contents of the DNC and Podesta emails circulated outside the internet. They were a huge story. Blaming the Russians for that, after The NYT, WaPost, and WSJ reported on them, is silly and ignores the facts.

The Twisted Genius

Eric Newhill,

I get your techie friend who went off the grid. I do not have a smartphone. I sometimes carry an old flip phone without camera or GPS, but with a notably unsocial voicemail message. Colonel Lang can vouch for that. I fill it once a year with $50 worth of T-Mobile card. I don't have cable or FIOS, but rely on free digital broadcast signal. I have a six year old laptop and a DSL connection. And I sit in my gazebo every morning to read an old fashioned local newspaper. I like life that way.

Part of the reason I've adopted this semi-Luddite lifestyle is that I have serious misgivings about big government and big business capabilities in SIGINT, digital data collection and the increasing capabilities of AI technologies. Yes these AI machines can work on large data sets, but they can do so much more. My friends AI doesn't require collected data sets. It can be launched onto the network and act as tens of thousands of autonomous "agents" to do the bidding of whoever unleashed them. These agents are guided by broad mission commands and refine their activities through ML to try to zero in on what the operator wants even if he does not quite know what he want when he launches these agents. In another use, this AI outperformed experienced polygraphers.

I don't know what my friend is doing with his AI and for whom right now. I respect him too much to ask. But I am confident that I could sit down with my friend and his AI and find out exactly what's true and untrue about this whole Russian IO thing in a week or so. Several years ago I talked with him about the idea of making this AI available to the public, not just the government or big businesses. That would empower the people. The problem is that it would empower both good and bad people.

Unfortunately, the genie will be put back in the bottle. That's why I want the investigation of the full extent of this particular Russian IO to continue and be widely publicized once concluded. This stuff will be widely used by a lot of governments, political parties and businesses in the future. I want everyone to be aware of what can be done so they can recognize it and guard against such attempts to influence.

TonyL

On further examination of his/her findings, I'd say the Forensicator did not have a good enough technical expertise to perform a forensic examination.

MRW

Lefty,

It would not be surprising to find it was a joint exercise with Bell Labs as many things were.

Oh, it absolutely was. We created the PLN, the Private Line Network. That was how the trunks communicated nationwide. There were only 100 scientists who knew how it worked. I had to learn it, then teach the updates to these scientists and the four NSA scientists who came over to get the updates as well.

Remember Alex Klein (I think that was his name) who blew the whistle in late 2006 on the secret room at AT&T's San Francisco trunk building? Well, that was a ‘node' and when I was working on it there were 10 nodes nationwide. I hear there are about 20 now because of the net and global traffic. NSA in my day attached their hoovers to the nodes directly—reason why they needed those updates—and picked up every telecommunication made in the US, and in and out of it. Everything. Wholesale. The bullshit that story that Congress still believes and pundits repeat is bogus. (What Snowden revealed was just the tip of the iceberg.)

The thing about the Klein incident is that the public to this day think what Klein uncovered only occurred in one location. And what he discovered at that node was how NSA was using NARUS as the go-between, the uber-hoover, to provide plausible deniability. NARUS was in that little room. NARUS, this super hoover, was an Israeli company when it was created in the late 90s (of course using our technology, purloined after CALEA). And the Israelis ran the operation until their cocky owner had bragged once too often about what he was doing. Many suspect that Israel had added another pipe back to Mossad HQ. These days Boeing owns NARUS, as far as I know.

The Twisted Genius

TimmyB,

I edited out half your comment. It was just a repetition of my post. You take great umbrage at my opening paragraph. That passage is not part of a sworn affidavit, it's a blog post done in my often flippant and irreverent style. Toughen up or relax. Your choice. Judging by the mass of responses this post has flushed out, and the tone of some, I think the general intention of my words was more correct than wrong.

I think I'll rebut only one of your points. You claim Assange called all his material the product of leaks and also acknowledge that Podesta's emails were hacked. I think you forgot that Wikileaks began publishing the Podesta emails within an hour of the airing of the Access Hollywood Trump video. And those hacked Podesta emails kept coming from Wikileaks. In other words, your blind faith in the veracity of Assange is misplaced.

readerOfTeaLeaves

Donald,
I take it very seriously, but then I have a lot of background in education, the neurology of reading, and topics related to 'how learning happens'. Consequently, the implications of 'slime mold' and social ephemera would strike me as a very big deal. Perhaps the Russian spinmeisters are coming to this late; OTOH, perhaps we are only now hearing about something that's been happening for some time.

KHC - completely agree with the Gutenberg analogy, as well as the idea that Johannes Gutenberg never intentionally triggered the implosion of the Roman Catholic Church. However, this post was about Russia; it's not unique in exploiting information. Never was; never will be.

The DNC curia was ill suited to recognize that the upsurge for Bernie was a profoundly important shift. Once the DNC screwed him, quite a few of my relatives were left with only one option for 'change', and it would not have been hard for any interested observer to note those social dynamics and exploit them.

Old Microbiologist

Okay, randomly people get rid of them OR more likely they are cast aside by the party. But, in general, once elected it takes a huge effort to remove one. Very rarely one is caught out for too much corruption but again it is usually as a consequence of defying the orders from the plutocrats who really run things in Congress. Watch Sanders who seems to be falling into the morass of defiance. Another to watch is Tulsi Gabbard who very openly has defied them. If she survives then she will rapidly rise to the top. A cynic might think this is all part of a larger game plan. Fake revolts seem to lure voters back to the fold for a chance to get a better leader. We see it openly in the Presidential elections but it is more cloaked in the Congressional races. This was Trump's game plan and it worked well. It worked for Obama and surprisingly twice as apparently the voters forgot all his unfulfilled campaign promises.

I always think of the old Warner Brothers cartoon with Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog punching the clock to duke it out during the day and back to buddies at the end of their shift. I think this characterizes Congress well.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kerUbfOQTW0

Old Microbiologist

J, there is a big difference as to cause. The Russians are being attacked on all fronts literally by the US and it's hegemons. The entire Syria gambit was begun by the US in an attempt to break the Shia crescent and open up a pipeline (foolish thinking here) to the Mediterranean and thence to Europe to supplant the Russians business there. Now they are pushing LPG from the US at 4 times the price. But, a secondary plan which is still in effect is to generate many jihadists particularly from former Soviet Republics who would eventually return home and apply jihadist pressure once again the Russia. I believe it is this reason Putin is so adamant to defend Assad so as to kill the snakes before they come back home. Of course, the short sighted idiots who planned this "civil war" in Syria (we must also include Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan, etc.) failed to foresee that there are also a lot of jihadists who will be coming back to the EU countries.

No one is directly attacking the US yet. However, in pushing China hard we may see something interesting. What I don't quite understand is the failure of whomever is running this global operation to foresee unintended consequences. The economy is in reality horrible and extremely fragile. This is especially true as only the stock markets have done well and the majority of trading is now completely autonomous using alogrithmic trading platforms operating under loose supervision. We have had and are still seeing flash/crash caused by the Algo's making poor decisions. Most people are unaware but Twitter is the main parameter monitored by the Algo's to forecast the market. As we have seen many botnets can be used to shift internet memes and can be used to force a market change. It is subtle but I am certain nefarious actors are working to do exactly that. The Plunge Protection Team intercedes often and if you play the market you can watch it happen. How much and how far they can intercede is an open question. BUt, a major calamity like a nuclear blast somewhere will tip it past the point of control. What I am saying here is there is no free market any more and hasn't been now for quite a while. It pleases them to run it up under Trump but they still have zero controls on the banks and Hedge funds and they can drive it down and make money on shorts just as easy. Glass-Steagall which was removed under Clinton, was the only thing keeping the markets free and relatively uncorrupted. Naked shorts still exist and banks can co-mingle customer's deposits with their hedge funds. I recall my shock when I learned that as a depositor I am actually legally a creditor and have loaned them my money. THis means that I am towards the end of the line in claims should they lose my money. The business vendors are far ahead in line. It was Clinton who allowed this to happen.

Worse, in 2007 the banks were leveraged 50:1 and it is why companies like AIG were on tap to insure (through Credit Default Swaps -CDS) over $3 trillion dollars on assets of less than $300 billion. That should never be permitted or legal. Now the banks are leveraged at 150:1 and CDS (plus "new" instruments are all back as it was before the last collapse) so we are back once again to a point of collapse should something relatively minor happen. So, why are we shaking the trees so hard? It makes no sense to me.

I will add (again I know I sing this tune periodically but only because I so adamantly believe it) that the American citizens have some control over the behavior of the banking industry. It is after all our money they are playing with. I recommend to everyone to move their banking to Credit Unions who are non-profits and cannot loan more than they have in assets. Yes, it is somewhat crappified compared to slick banks but it is worth it to do so. The next big thing is to stop borrowing money at all. My SWMBO (a very tough Russian emigre and a PhD Geo-Physicist) and I worked our asses off to pay off all our mortgages, car loans, etc. It took about 5 years of paying everything off but we got there in the end. We also moved all of our IRA/401K to Scottrade where we control where it is invested and bypass all the fees that eat away the IRA balance. We also never carry a balance on credit cards and are completely debt free. If you want to taste freedom in America you either have to be very rich or completely debt free otherwise you are a debt slave. We then left the US and emigrated to Hungary where there is no death or property taxes. That was our main reason to come here but it has turned out to be a great decision. Anyone can do what we did assuming you have a sufficient income. Of course, my 40 years with the US government earned me 2 Federal pensions plus Social Security so we have that at least until the US economy collapses. I sincerely hope it won't because if it happens it will effect the entire world and not in good ways.

So, I see that Russia, Iran, China, Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, and others are putting up resistance to US efforts to destroy the world. It is only through this resistance that there is hope for us to avoid the mother of all wars and possibly the end of humanity. I believe the stakes are that high. I also believe that if Clinton had been elected that we would already be in that nuclear war. Trump is still an unknown and it may go that way despite everything, but at least he is different and we are not yet at global thermonuclear war. I see what Russia and China (mainly) are doing as trying to keep this from happening as for them it is an existential threat to their (and sadly our) existence. But, the idiots in Washington fail to see the long term risks to their policy decisions.

Old Microbiologist

Good points. We could also ask if these agencies can defy all Constitutional Rights so as to protect us how come we have had so many attacks? I mean really, what are they doing? Between NSA and Cyber Command and toss in the supporting contractors we have at least 50,000 people working on defense of the homeland from terrorist attacks. There shouldn't be any at all.

Old Microbiologist

Somewhat related to the cause and effect debate about Trump, the Russians, etc. My son, who is a liberal millennial with a BA but underemployed posted this to Facebook. It is a long diatribe but I think it shows the problems we are facing in this country with the liberals way of viewing the world. I don't think he wrote it but he seems to believe it to be the truth. These are educated people by the way.

'I don't think Trump supporters have any particular views on policy (foreign or domestic). They're moved only by a nihilistic hatred of liberals. Whatever riles them up is their bread and butter.

They feel they've been mocked and ridiculed by popular culture (and that is half unfair and half deserved). So they are in the process of getting back at everyone. They elected Trump because he's a pig, because he can lay the biggest and steamiest piles on that mainstream culture. You have to pay attention, but if you follow interviews of Trump supporters, you will eventually notice that, from news clip to news clip, the one comment that comes back often is the one where the supporter will say something along the lines: "I like it when Trump shakes the media a little bit".
These are the hardcore Trump fans. Sadly, the moderates are not far off.

The stupidity of this situation is that everybody gets fooled. Trump first. Because he doesn't like his supporters (let's be real: this guy wouldn't wipe his ass with the hillbillies that follow him). But he thinks they like him. They don't. They elected him to do one thing: being a dick, especially to the liberal side of America. Eventually, Trump will get tired of being the people's monkey. And the people are getting fooled too. Some, I think, imagine Trump can both play the part and fix their lives. I don't believe their reasons to believe that are very sophisticated. You can narrow it to one thing: Trump is a billionaire so he must "know money", as one Trump supporter put it. The thing is he doesn't, his business track record proves it. I remember the speech of Michael Bloomberg at the DNC Convention. He said: "Trump says he wants to run America like he runs his business. God help us!". So Trump supporters won't get any out of him. What they are getting instead is the Republican agenda which, as far as I can remember, has always been about making sure poor people are miserable as hell.

In the end, everybody will get tired of this farce. The administration is testing the limits of how far lies can go. But even stupidity has its limits sometimes. People will see that things aren't getting better and it will erode their patience and diminish their confidence.

Trump too will tire of being the circus act. He'll realize he's the clown and not the show runner. He's gonna find himself in the situation of the performer who sees his audience getting bored and dwindle when he strays from his main trick. That will hurt his ego badly, his ego being, as we know, his soft spot. And beyond that, I think he did not anticipate that the press would be all up in his junk, asking for tax returns and peeling apart every shred of his business. If reporters start getting really specific about the underbelly of his so called empire Trump will get super squeamish. The tax returns in particular are a big no no. I don't think they'll show anything nefarious (they're tax returns after all), but I do believe they'll show he's not a billionaire, or at least that his wealth is vastly inflated. He's for sure very rich, but he's not super rich. If that became public, it would take a lot away from the Trump persona, at least in his eyes. Remember, he's the guy who sued because someone called him a millionaire (instead of a "billionaire"), as if that was somehow an insult. The suit may be a stunt, but the message is quite clear. The sum total of this is, I think, that Trump will drop the presidency like a hot potatoe.

All this, of course, will take time. By then, as you said, it will be too late for people to realize that they have not only shot themselves in the foot but sawed their own legs off. It will be a hard reckoning and I can't think of how people will react. Maybe it will be very quiet suddenly, like when you turn the light off somewhere. But that's in the distance. For now, we have to get used to the noise. And, by God, we have to get better at parsing through that noise, to distinguish what is just people yelling and what is the loud cracks of the system crashing. Because when Trump is gone, and his supporters have followed him in that pit of shame and oblivion, we'll have a heavy work ahead of us. So we'd better start now to save on the sweat waiting for us.'

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