1. one that aggregates.
2. gatherer/assembler/presenter of digital content such as news stories/reports, music/video and/or other multi media…. presenting such material, newly crafted and available in one place.
By Rachel Nuwer / BBC /18 April 2017
According to the Secular Policy Institute, religious groups receive $35.3 billions in federal income tax subsidies and $26.2 billion in property tax credits. They also enjoy $6.1 billion in state income tax, $1.2 billion of parsonage and $2.2 billion in faith-based initiative subsidies.
SPI reports that if “religious organizations (ie. churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.) were taxed like for-profit agencies, it was found that this could generate upwards of $71 billion per year in tax revenue.”
“…even if churches were merely held to the standards of other non-profit agencies, this could generate $16.75 billion in tax revenue per year.The report estimate for the total subsides enjoyed by religious organizations, but they do not account for tax credits like sales taxes, local sales and income taxes volunteer labor subsidy, and donor-tax exemptions.”
Many Americans believe religious organizations require these heavy tax breaks for use in their charitable works. However, researchers at Secular Humanism report that many popular churches are in fact using far less of their funds compared to non-profits.
The Mormon Church, for example, spends roughly .7% of its annual income on charity. Their study of 271 congregations found an average of 71% of revenues going to ‘operating expenses’…Compare this to the American Red Cross, which uses 92.1% of revenues for physical assistance and just 7.9% on operating expenses. The authors also note that Wal-Mart, for instance, gives about $1.75 billion in food aid to charities each year, or twenty-eight times all of the money allotted for charity by the United Methodist Church and almost double what the LDS Church has given in the last twenty-five years.
While some churches actually participate in charitable works, they do not perform half as much humanitarian aid as a true none-profit organization.
According to Patheos, “churches should be entitled to the same tax breaks as other charitable groups, as long as they are held to the same standard, and not given the free pass to tax free status they currently enjoy.”
The pairing of a famed local newspaper and an ambitious nonprofit news web site might strike some people as symbolic of turbulent times in journalism.
The Pulitzers, administered by Columbia University, are the most prestigious prizes in American journalism for newspaper and digital news coverage. The prizes recognize work from the 2016 calendar year, which means some of the entries involved election themes. Winners and finalists were announced on Monday.
Other winners included the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, McClatchy and the Miami Herald, in the explanatory reporting category, for coverage of the Panama Papers; the East Bay Times for breaking news; the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold for national reporting; and the Charleston Gazette-Mail for investigative reporting.
The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold won the national reporting prize.
“David never took things at face value. He checked out everything with amazing persistence. And he went about his work in an innovative, highly resourceful manner — soliciting the assistance of the public via Twitter. In that way, he reimagined how investigative reporting can be carried out while also providing a level of transparency into his work that fascinated the public,” Post editor Marty Baron said in a statement.
After the election, Fahrenthold became a CNN contributor on top of his Post reporting.
Short summaries accompanied each winning entry. Only one of the prize summaries — for Fahrenthold’s reporting — mentioned President Trump by name.
But some of the other prizes recognized work that reckoned with the consequences of the campaign and tried to lend insight to the election and its aftermath.
Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan received the commentary prize for, the judges said, “rising to the moment with beautifully rendered columns that connected readers to the shared virtues of Americans during one of the nation’s most divisive political campaigns.”
…thanks and your welcome to CNN et al…..
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL OUR CONTESTANTS………
One of many, many infuriating parts of having Trump as the President is the insufferable smugness of conservatives. When they’re not telling you to “suck it up, snowflake” or trying to sell you fake news, they’re gloating: “We suffered for eight years under that tyrant Obummer. Now it’s your turn.”
One man, Scott Mednick had enough with his Republican acquaintances and penned this powerful response:
That, of course, is your right, I suppose. I do not wish harm on anyone. Your statement seems to continue the ‘US v THEM’ mentality. The election is over. It is important to get past campaigning and campaign rhetoric and get down to what is uniting, not dividing and what is best for ALL Americans.
There will never be a President who does everything to everyone’s liking. There are things President Obama (and President Clinton) did that I do not like and conversely there are things I can point to that the Presidents Bush did that I agree with. So I am not 100% in lock step with the outgoing President but have supported him and the overall job he did.
And, if you recall, during the Presidential Campaign back in 2008 the campaign was halted because of the “historic crisis in our financial system.” Wall Street bailout negotiations intervened in the election process. The very sobering reality was that there likely could be a Depression and the world financial markets could collapse.
The United States was losing 800,000 jobs a month and was poised to lose at least 10 million jobs the first year once the new President took office. We were in an economic freefall. So let us recall that ALL of America was suffering terribly at the beginning of Obama’s Presidency.
But I wanted to look back over the last 8 years and ask you a few questions. Since much of the rhetoric before Obama was elected was that he would impose Sharia Law, Take Away Your Guns, Create Death Panels, Destroy the Economy, Impose Socialism and, since you will agree that NONE of this came to pass, I was wondering: Why have you suffered so?
So let me ask: Gays and Lesbians can now marry and enjoy the benefits they had been deprived of. Has this caused your suffering?
When Obama took office, the Dow was 6,626. Now it is 19,875. Has this caused your suffering?
We had 82 straight months of private sector job growth – the longest streak in the history of the United States. Has this caused your suffering?
Especially considering where the economy was when he took over, an amazing 11.3 million new jobs were created under President Obama (far more than President Bush). Has this caused your suffering?
Obama has taken Unemployment from 10% down to 4.7%. Has this caused your suffering?
Homelessness among US Veterans has dropped by half. Has this caused your suffering?
Obama shut down the US secret overseas prisons. Has this caused your suffering?
President Obama has created a policy for the families of fallen soldiers to have their travel paid for to be there when remains are flown home. Has this caused your suffering?
We landed a rover on Mars. Has this caused your suffering?
He passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Has this caused your suffering?
Uninsured adults has decreased to below 10%: 90% of adults are insured – an increase of 20 Million Adults. Has this caused your suffering?
People are now covered for pre-existing conditions. Has this caused your suffering?
Insurance Premiums increased an average of $4,677 from 2002-2008, an increase of 58% under Bush. The growth of these insurance premiums has gone up $4,145 – a slower rate of increase. Has this caused your suffering?
Obama added Billions of dollars to mental health care for our Veterans. Has this caused your suffering?
Consumer confidence has gone from 37.7 to 98.1 during Obama’s tenure. Has this caused your suffering?
He passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Has this caused your suffering?
His bi-annual Nuclear Summit convinced 16 countries to give up and destroy all their loose nuclear material so it could not be stolen. Has this caused your suffering?
He saved the US Auto industry. American cars sold at the beginning of his term were 10.4M and upon his exit 17.5M. Has this caused your suffering?
The deficit as a percentage of the GDP has gone from 9.8% to 3.2%. Has this caused your suffering?
The deficit itself was cut by $800 Billion Dollars. Has this caused your suffering?
Obama preserved the middle class tax cuts. Has this caused your suffering?
Obama banned solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons. Has this caused your suffering?
He signed Credit Card reform so that rates could not be raised without you being notified. Has this caused your suffering?
He outlawed Government contractors from discriminating against LGBT persons. Has this caused your suffering?
He doubled Pell Grants. Has this caused your suffering?
Abortion is down. Has this caused your suffering?
Violent crime is down. Has this caused your suffering?
He overturned the scientific ban on stem cell research. Has this caused your suffering?
He protected Net Neutrality. Has this caused your suffering?
Obamacare has extended the life of the Medicare insurance trust fund (will be solvent until 2030). Has this caused your suffering?
President Obama repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Has this caused your suffering?
He banned torture. Has this caused your suffering?
He negotiated with Syria to give up its chemical weapons and they were destroyed. Has this caused your suffering?
Solar and Wind Power are at an all time high. Has this caused your suffering?
High School Graduation rates hit 83% – an all time high. Has this caused your suffering?
Corporate profits are up by 144%. Has this caused your suffering?
He normalized relations with Cuba. Has this caused your suffering?
Reliance on foreign oil is at a 40 year low. Has this caused your suffering?
US Exports are up 28%. Has this caused your suffering?
He appointed the most diverse cabinet ever. Has this caused your suffering?
He reduced the number of troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Has this caused your suffering?
Yes, he killed Osama Bin Laden and retrieved all the documents in his possession for analysis. Perhaps THIS caused your suffering?
From an objective standpoint it would appear that the last eight years have seen some great progress and we were saved from a financial collapse. Things are not perfect. Things can always be better. We are on much better footing now than we were in 2008.
I look forward to understanding what caused you to suffer so much under Obama these last eight years.”
Natalie Dickinson Occupy Democrats February 2017.
Copy & paste to share.
A Kentucky Federal Judge rejected to dismiss the claim from three protesters at a 2016 Trump rally that then-candidate Trump, provoked violence with his rhetoric to have them removed. U. S. District Judge David J. Hale ruled in a March 31 opinion that he is rejecting requests from Trump and his supporters named as defendants…
…ON THE MORNING of December 30, the day after Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for interfering in the 2016 US election, Tillmann Werner was sitting down to breakfast in Bonn, Germany. He spread some jam on a slice of rye bread, poured himself a cup of coffee, and settled in to check Twitter at his dining room table.
The news about the sanctions had broken overnight, so Werner, a researcher with the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, was still catching up on details. Following a link to an official statement, Werner saw that the White House had targeted a short parade’s worth of Russian names and institutions—two intelligence agencies, four senior intelligence officials, 35 diplomats, three tech companies, two hackers. Most of the details were a blur. Then Werner stopped scrolling. His eyes locked on one name buried among the targets: Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev.
Werner, as it happened, knew quite a bit about Evgeniy Bogachev. He knew in precise, technical detail how Bogachev had managed to loot and terrorize the world’s financial systems with impunity for years. He knew what it was like to do battle with him.
But Werner had no idea what role Bogachev might have played in the US election hack. Bogachev wasn’t like the other targets—he was a bank robber. Maybe the most prolific bank robber in the world. “What on earth is he doing on this list?” Werner wondered.
AMERICA’S WAR WITH Russia’s greatest cybercriminal began in the spring of 2009, when special agent James Craig, a rookie in the FBI’s Omaha, Nebraska, field office, began looking into a strange pair of electronic thefts. A square-jawed former marine, Craig had been an agent for just six months, but his superiors tapped him for the case anyway, because of his background: For years, he’d been an IT guy for the FBI. One of his nicknames in college was “the silent geek.”
While you log into seemingly secure websites, the malware modifies pages before they load, siphoning away your credentials and your account balance.
The leading victim in the case was a subsidiary of the payments-processing giant First Data, which lost $450,000 that May. That was quickly followed by a $100,000 theft from a client of the First National Bank of Omaha. What was odd, Craig noticed, was that the thefts seemed to have been executed from the victims’ own IP addresses, using their own logins and passwords. Examining their computers, he saw that they were infected with the same malware: something called the Zeus Trojan horse.
In online security circles, Craig discovered, Zeus was notorious. Having first appeared in 2006, the malware had a reputation among both criminals and security experts as a masterpiece—smooth, effective, versatile. Its author was a phantom. He was only known online, where he went by the handle Slavik, or lucky12345, or a half-dozen other names.
Zeus infected computers through fairly typical means: fake IRS emails, say, or illegitimate UPS shipping notices that tricked recipients into downloading a file. But once it was on your computer, Zeus let hackers play God: They could hijack websites and use a keystroke logger to record usernames, passwords, and PINs. Hackers could even modify login forms to request further valuable security information: a mother’s maiden name, a Social Security number. The ruse is known as a “man in the browser” attack. While you sit at your computer logging into seemingly secure websites, the malware modifies pages before they load, siphoning away your credentials and your account balance. Only when you log in from a different computer do you even realize the money is gone.
By the time Craig started his investigation, Zeus had become the digital underground’s malware of choice—the Microsoft Office of online fraud. Slavik was something rare in the malware world: a genuine professional. He regularly updated the Zeus code, beta-testing new features. His product was endlessly adaptable, with variants optimized for different kinds of attacks and targets. A computer infected with Zeus could even be folded into a botnet, a network of infected computers that can be harnessed together to run spam servers or distributed denial-of-service attacks, or send out more deceptive emails to spread the malware further.
But sometime shortly before Craig picked up his case in 2009, Slavik had begun to change tack. He started cultivating an inner circle of online criminals, providing a select group with a variant of his malware, called Jabber Zeus. It came equipped with a Jabber instant-message plug-in, allowing the group to communicate and coordinate attacks—like in the two Omaha thefts. Rather than rely on broad infection campaigns, they began to specifically target corporate accountants and people with access to financial systems.
As Slavik turned increasingly to organized crime, he dramatically narrowed his retail malware business. In 2010 he announced his “retirement” online and then released what security researchers came to call Zeus 2.1, an advanced version of his malware protected by an encryption key—effectively tying each copy to a specific user—with a price tag upwards of $10,000 per copy. Now, Slavik was only dealing with an elite, ambitious group of criminals.
“We had no idea how big this case was,” Craig says. “The amount of activity from these guys was phenomenal.” Other institutions began to come forward with losses and accounts of fraud. Lots of them. Craig realized that, from his desk in suburban Omaha, he was chasing a well-organized international criminal network. “The victims started falling out of the sky,” Craig says. It dwarfed any other cybercrime the FBI had tackled before.
CRAIG’S FIRST MAJOR break in the case came in September 2009. With the help of some industry experts, he identified a New York–based server that seemed to play some sort of role in the Zeus network. He obtained a search warrant, and an FBI forensics team copied the server’s data onto a hard drive, then overnighted it to Nebraska. When an engineer in Omaha examined the results, he sat in awe for a moment. The hard drive contained tens of thousands of lines of instant message chat logs in Russian and Ukrainian. Looking over at Craig, the engineer said: “You have their Jabber server.”
This was the gang’s whole digital operation—a road map to the entire case. The cybersecurity firm Mandiant dispatched an engineer to Omaha for months just to help untangle the Jabber Zeus code, while the FBI began cycling in agents from other regions on 30- or 90-day assignments. Linguists across the country pitched in to decipher the logs. “The slang was a challenge,” Craig says.
The messages contained references to hundreds of victims, their stolen credentials scattered in English throughout the files. Craig and other agents started cold-calling institutions, telling them they had been hit by cyberfraud. He found that several businesses had terminated employees they suspected of the thefts—not realizing that the individuals’ computers had been infected by malware and their logins stolen.
The case also expanded beyond the virtual world. In New York one day in 2009, three young women from Kazakhstan walked into the FBI field office there with a strange story. The women had come to the States to look for work and found themselves participating in a curious scheme: A man would drive them to a local bank and tell them to go inside and open a new account. They were to explain to the teller that they were students visiting for the summer. A few days later, the man had them return to the bank and withdraw all of the money in the account; they kept a small cut and passed the rest on to him. Agents pieced together that the women were “money mules”: Their job was to cash out the funds that Slavik and his comrades had siphoned from legitimate accounts.
By the summer of 2010, New York investigators had put banks across the region on alert for suspicious cash-outs and told them to summon FBI agents as they occurred. The alert turned up dozens of mules withdrawing tens of thousands of dollars. Most were students or newly arrived immigrants in Brighton Beach. One woman explained that she’d become a mule after a job at a grocery store fell through, telling an agent: “I could strip, or I could do this.” Another man explained that he’d be picked up at 9 am, do cash-out runs until 3 pm, and then spend the rest of the day at the beach. Most cash-outs ran around $9,000, just enough to stay under federal reporting limits. The mule would receive 5 to 10 percent of the total, with another cut going to the recruiter. The rest of the money would be sent overseas.
“The amount of organization these kids—they’re in their twenties—were able to pull together would’ve impressed any Fortune 100 company,” Craig says.
The United States, moreover, was just one market in what investigators soon realized was a multinational reign of fraud. Officials traced similar mule routes in Romania, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and Russia. All told, investigators could attribute around $70 million to $80 million in thefts to the group—but they suspected the total was far more than that.
Banks howled at the FBI to shut the fraud down and stanch the losses. Over the summer, New York agents began to close in on high-ranking recruiters and the scheme’s masterminds in the US. Two Moldovans were arrested at a Milwaukee hotel at 11 pm following a tip; one suspect in Boston tried to flee a raid on his girlfriend’s apartment and had to be rescued from the fire escape.
Meanwhile, Craig’s case in Omaha advanced against the broader Jabber Zeus gang. The FBI and the Justice Department had zeroed in on an area in eastern Ukraine around the city of Donetsk, where several of the Jabber Zeus leaders seemed to live. Alexey Bron, known online as “thehead,” specialized in moving the gang’s money around the world. Ivan Viktorvich Klepikov, who went by the moniker “petr0vich,” ran the group’s IT management, web hosting, and domain names. And Vyacheslav Igorevich Penchukov, a well-known local DJ who went by the nickname “tank,” managed the whole scheme, putting him second in command to Slavik. “The amount of organization these kids—they’re in their twenties—were able to pull together would’ve impressed any Fortune 100 company,” Craig says. The gang poured their huge profits into expensive cars (Penchukov had a penchant for high-end BMWs and Porsches, while Klepikov preferred Subaru WRX sports sedans), and the chat logs were filled with discussions of fancy vacations across Turkey, Crimea, and the United Arab Emirates.
By the fall of 2010, the FBI was ready to take down the network. As officials in Washington called a high-profile press conference, Craig found himself on a rickety 12-hour train ride across Ukraine to Donetsk, where he met up with agents from the country’s security service to raid tank’s and petr0vich’s homes. Standing in petr0vich’s living room, a Ukrainian agent told Craig to flash his FBI badge. “Show him it’s not just us,” he urged. Craig was stunned by the scene: The hacker, wearing a purple velvet smoking jacket, seemed unperturbed as agents searched his messy apartment in a Soviet-style concrete building; his wife held their baby in the kitchen, laughing with investigators. “This is the gang I’ve been chasing?” Craig thought. The raids lasted well into the night, and Craig didn’t return to his hotel until 3 am. He took nearly 20 terabytes of seized data back to Omaha.
With 39 arrests around the world—stretching across four nations—investigators managed to disrupt the network. But crucial players slipped away. One top mule recruiter in the US fled west, staying a step ahead of investigators in Las Vegas and Los Angeles before finally escaping the country inside a shipping container. More important, Slavik, the mastermind himself, remained almost a complete cipher. Investigators assumed he was based in Russia. And once, in an online chat, they saw him reference that he was married. Other than that, they had nothing. The formal indictment referred to the creator of the Zeus malware using his online pseudonym. Craig didn’t even know what his prime suspect looked like. “We have thousands of photos from tank, petr0vich—not once did we see Slavik’s mug,” Craig says. Soon even the criminal’s online traces vanished. Slavik, whoever he was, went dark. And after seven years of chasing Jabber Zeus, James Craig moved on to other cases.
About a year after the FBI shut down the Jabber Zeus ring, the small community of online cybersecurity researchers who watch for malware and botnets began to notice a new variant of Zeus emerge. The malware’s source code had been leaked online in 2011—perhaps purposefully, perhaps not—effectively turning Zeus into an open source project and setting off an explosion of new variants. But the version that caught the eyes of researchers was different: more powerful and more sophisticated, particularly in its approach to assembling botnets.
Until then, most botnets used a hub-and-spoke system—a hacker would program a single command server to distribute orders directly to infected machines, known as zombie computers. The undead army could then be directed to send out spam emails, distribute malware, or target websites for denial-of-service attacks. That hub-and-spoke design, though, made botnets relatively easy for law enforcement or security researchers to dismantle. If you could knock the command server offline, seize it, or disrupt a hacker’s ability to communicate with it, you could usually break the botnet.
The gang’s strategy represented an evolutionary leap in organized crime: Now they could do everything remotely, never touching a US jurisdiction.
This new Zeus variant, however, relied on both traditional command servers and peer-to-peer communication between zombie machines, making it extremely difficult to knock down. Infected machines kept a constantly updated list of other infected machines. If one device sensed that its connection with the command server had been interrupted, it would rely on the peer-to-peer network to find a new command server.
The network, in effect, was designed from the start to be takedown-proof; as soon as one command server was knocked offline, the botnet owner could just set up a new server somewhere else and redirect the peer-to-peer network to it. The new version became known as GameOver Zeus, after one of its file names, gameover2.php. The name also lent itself naturally to gallows humor: Once this thing infects your computer, went a joke among security experts, it’s game over for your bank accounts.
As far as anyone could tell, GameOver Zeus was controlled by a very elite group of hackers—and the group’s leader was Slavik. He had reemerged, more powerful than ever. Slavik’s new crime ring came to be called the Business Club. A September 2011 internal announcement to the group—introducing members to a new suite of online tools for organizing money transfers and mules—concluded with a warm welcome to Slavik’s select recipients: “We wish you all successful and productive work.”
Like the Jabber Zeus network, the Business Club’s prime directive was knocking over banks, which it did with even more ruthless inventiveness than its predecessor. The scheme was multipronged: First, the GameOver Zeus malware would steal a user’s banking credentials, intercepting them as soon as someone with an infected computer logged into an online account. Then the Business Club would drain the bank account, transferring its funds into other accounts they controlled overseas. With the theft complete, the group would use its powerful botnet to hit the targeted financial institutions with a denial-of-service attack to distract bank employees and prevent customers from realizing their accounts had been emptied until after the money had cleared. On November 6, 2012, the FBI watched as the GameOver network stole $6.9 million in a single transaction, then hit the bank with a multiday denial-of-service attack.
Unlike the earlier Jabber Zeus gang, the more advanced network behind GameOver focused on larger six- and seven-figure bank thefts—a scale that made bank withdrawals in Brooklyn obsolete. Instead, they used the globe’s interconnected banking system against itself, hiding their massive thefts inside the trillions of dollars of legitimate commerce that slosh around the world each day. Investigators specifically identified two areas in far eastern China, close to the Russian city of Vladivostok, from which mules funneled huge amounts of stolen money into Business Club accounts. The strategy, investigators realized, represented an evolutionary leap in organized crime: Bank robbers no longer had to have a footprint inside the US. Now they could do everything remotely, never touching a US jurisdiction. “That’s all it takes to operate with impunity,” says Leo Taddeo, a former top FBI official.
BANKS WEREN’T THE gang’s only targets. They also raided the accounts of nonfinancial businesses large and small, nonprofits, and even individuals. In October 2013, Slavik’s group began deploying malware known as CryptoLocker, a form of ransomware that would encrypt the files upon an infected machine and force its owner to pay a small fee, say, $300 to $500, to unlock the files. It quickly became a favorite tool of the cybercrime ring, in part because it helped transform dead weight into profit. The trouble with building a massive botnet focused on high-level financial fraud, it turns out, is that most zombie computers don’t connect to fat corporate accounts; Slavik and his associates found themselves with tens of thousands of mostly idle zombie machines. Though ransomware didn’t yield huge amounts, it afforded the criminals a way to monetize these otherwise worthless infected computers.
The concept of ransomware had been around since the 1990s, but CryptoLocker took it mainstream. Typically arriving on a victim’s machine under the cover of an unassuming email attachment, the Business Club’s ransomware used strong encryption and forced victims to pay using bitcoin. It was embarrassing and inconvenient, but many relented. The Swansea, Massachusetts, police department grumpily ponied up $750 to get back one of its computers in November 2013; the virus “is so complicated and successful that you have to buy these bitcoins, which we had never heard of,” Swansea police lieutenant Gregory Ryan told his local newspaper.
“When a bank gets attacked en masse—100 transactions a week—you stop caring about the specific malware and the individual attacks; you just need to stop the bleeding,” says one Dutch security expert.
The following month, the security firm Dell SecureWorks estimated that as many as 250,000 machines worldwide had been infected with CryptoLocker that year. One researcher traced 771 ransoms that netted Slavik’s crew a total of $1.1 million. “He was one of the first to realize how desperate people would be to regain access to their files,” Brett Stone-Gross, a researcher with Dell SecureWorks at the time, says of Slavik. “He didn’t charge an exorbitant amount, but he made a lot of money and created a new type of online crime.”
As the GameOver network continued to gain strength, its operators kept adding revenue streams—renting out their network to other criminals to deliver malware and spam or to carry out projects like click fraud, ordering zombie machines to generate revenue by clicking on ads on fake websites.
With each passing week, the cost to banks, businesses, and individuals from GameOver grew. For businesses, the thefts could easily wipe out a year’s profits, or worse. Domestically, victims ranged from a regional bank in north Florida to a Native American tribe in Washington state. As it haunted large swathes of the private sector, GameOver absorbed more and more of the efforts of the private cybersecurity industry. The sums involved were staggering. “I don’t think anyone has a grasp of the full extent—one $5 million theft overshadows hundreds of smaller thefts,” explains Michael Sandee, a security expert at the Dutch firm Fox-IT. “When a bank gets attacked en masse—100 transactions a week—you stop caring about the specific malware and the individual attacks; you just need to stop the bleeding.”
Many tried. From 2011 through 2013, cybersecurity researchers and various firms mounted three attempts to take down GameOver Zeus. Three European security researchers teamed up to make a first assault in the spring of 2012. Slavik easily repelled their attack. Then, in March 2012, Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit took civil legal action against the network, relying upon US marshals to raid data centers in Illinois and Pennsylvania that housed Zeus command-and-control servers and aiming legal action against 39 individuals thought to be associated with the Zeus networks. (Slavik was first on the list.) But Microsoft’s plan failed to put a dent in GameOver. Instead it merely clued Slavik in to what investigators knew about his network and allowed him to refine his tactics.
Botnet fighters are a small, proud group of engineers and security researchers—self-proclaimed “internet janitors” who work to keep online networks running smoothly. Within that group, Tillmann Werner—the tall, lanky German researcher with the security firm CrowdStrike—had become known for his flair and enthusiasm for the work. In February 2013 he seized control of the Kelihos botnet, an infamous malware network built on Viagra spam, live onstage during a presentation at the cybersecurity industry’s biggest conference. But Kelihos, he knew, was no GameOver Zeus. Werner had been watching GameOver since its inception, marveling at its strength and resilience.
In 2012 he had linked up with Stone-Gross—who was just a few months out of graduate school and was based in California—plus a few other researchers to map out an effort to attack GameOver. Working across two continents largely in their spare time, the men plotted their attack via online chat. They carefully studied the previous European effort, identifying where it had failed, and spent a year preparing their offensive.
At the peak of their attack, the researchers controlled 99 percent of Slavik’s network—but they’d overlooked a critical source of resilience in GameOver’s structure.
In January 2013, they were ready: They stocked up on pizza, assuming they were in for a long siege against Slavik’s network. (When you go against a botnet, Werner says, “you have one shot. It either goes right or wrong.”) Their plan was to reroute GameOver’s peer-to-peer network, centralize it, and then redirect the traffic to a new server under their control—a process known as “sinkholing.” In doing so, they hoped to sever the botnet’s communication link to Slavik. And at first, everything went well. Slavik showed no signs of fighting back, and Werner and Stone-Gross watched as more and more infected computers connected to their sinkhole by the hour.
At the peak of their attack, the researchers controlled 99 percent of Slavik’s network—but they’d overlooked a critical source of resilience in GameOver’s structure: a small subset of infected computers were still secretly communicating with Slavik’s command servers. “We missed that there’s a second layer of control,” Stone-Gross says. By the second week, Slavik was able to push a software update to his whole network and reassert his authority. The researchers watched with dawning horror as a new version of GameOver Zeus propagated across the internet and Slavik’s peer-to-peer network began to reassemble. “We immediately saw what happened—we’d completely neglected this other channel of communication,” Werner says.
The researchers’ ploy—nine months in the making—had failed. Slavik had won. In a trollish online chat with a Polish security team, he crowed about how all the efforts to seize his network had come to naught. “I don’t think he thought it was possible to take down his botnet,” Werner says. Dejected, the two researchers were eager to try again. But they needed help—from Pittsburgh.
Over the past decade, the FBI’s Pittsburgh field office has emerged as the source of the government’s biggest cybercrime indictments, thanks in no small part to the head of the local cybersquad there, a onetime furniture salesman named J. Keith Mularski.
An excitable and gregarious agent who grew up around Pittsburgh, Mularski has become something of a celebrity in cybersecurity circles. He joined the FBI in the late ’90s and spent his first seven years in the bureau working espionage and terrorism cases in Washington, DC. Jumping at the chance to return home to Pittsburgh, he joined a new cyber initiative there in 2005, despite the fact that he knew little about computers. Mularski trained on the job during a two-year undercover investigation chasing identity thieves deep in the online forum DarkMarket. Under the screen name Master Splyntr—a handle inspired by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—Mularski managed to become a DarkMarket administrator, putting himself at the center of a burgeoning online criminal community. In his guise, he even chatted online with Slavik and reviewed an early version of the Zeus malware program. His DarkMarket access eventually helped investigators arrest 60 people across three continents.
Even after millions of dollars in thefts, neither the FBI nor the security industry had so much as a single Business Club member’s name.
In the years that followed, the head of the Pittsburgh office decided to invest aggressively in combating cybercrime—a bet on its increasing importance. By 2014, the FBI agents in Mularski’s squad, together with another squad assigned to a little-known Pittsburgh institution called the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance, were prosecuting some of the Justice Department’s biggest cases. Two of Mularski’s agents, Elliott Peterson and Steven J. Lampo, were chasing the hackers behind GameOver Zeus, even as their desk-mates simultaneously investigated a case that would ultimately indict five Chinese army hackers who had penetrated computer systems at Westinghouse, US Steel, and other companies to benefit Chinese industry.
The FBI’s GameOver case had been under way for about a year by the time Werner and Stone-Gross offered to join forces with the Pittsburgh squad to take down Slavik’s botnet. If they had approached any other law-enforcement agency, the response might have been different. Government cooperation with industry was still a relatively rare phenomenon; the Feds’ style in cyber cases was, by reputation, to hoover up industry leads without sharing information. But the team in Pittsburgh was unusually practiced at collaboration, and they knew that the two researchers were the best in the field. “We jumped at the chance,” Mularski says.
Both sides realized that in order to tackle the botnet, they needed to work on three simultaneous fronts. First, they had to figure out once and for all who was running GameOver—what investigators call “attribution”—and build up a criminal prosecution; even after millions of dollars in thefts, neither the FBI nor the security industry had so much as a single Business Club member’s name. Second, they needed to take down the digital infrastructure of GameOver itself; that’s where Werner and Stone-Gross came in. And third, they needed to disable the botnet’s physical infrastructure by assembling court orders and enlisting the help of other governments to seize its servers across the globe. Once all that was done, they needed partners in the private sector to be ready with software updates and security patches to help recover infected computers the moment the good guys had control of the botnet. Absent any one of those moves, the next effort to take down GameOver Zeus was likely to fail just as the previous ones had.
The network was run through two password-protected British websites, which contained careful records, FAQs, and a “ticket” system for resolving technical issues.
With that, Mularski’s squad began to stitch together an international partnership unlike anything the US government had ever undertaken, enlisting the UK’s National Crime Agency, officials in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Luxembourg, and a dozen other countries, as well as industry experts at Microsoft, CrowdStrike, McAfee, Dell SecureWorks, and other companies.
First, to help nail down Slavik’s identity and get intelligence on the Business Club, the FBI teamed up with Fox-IT, a Dutch outfit renowned for its expertise in cyber-forensics. The Dutch researchers got to work tracing old usernames and email addresses associated with Slavik’s ring to piece together an understanding of how the group operated.
The Business Club, it turned out, was a loose confederation of about 50 criminals, who each paid an initiation fee to access GameOver’s advanced control panels. The network was run through two password-protected British websites, Visitcoastweekend.com and Work.businessclub.so, which contained careful records, FAQs, and a “ticket” system for resolving technical issues. When investigators got legal permission to penetrate the Business Club server, they found a highly detailed ledger tracking the group’s various ongoing frauds. “Everything radiated professionalism,” Fox-IT’s Michael Sandee explains. When it came to pinpointing the precise timing of transactions between financial institutions, he says, “they probably knew better than the banks.”
ONE DAY, AFTER months of following leads, the investigators at Fox-IT got a tip from a source about an email address they might want to look into. It was one of many similar tips they’d chased down. “We had a lot of bread crumbs,” Mularski says. But this one led to something vital: The team was able to trace the email address to a British server that Slavik used to run the Business Club’s websites. More investigative work and more court orders eventually led authorities to Russian social media sites where the email address was connected to a real name: Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev. At first it was meaningless to the group. It took weeks’ more effort to realize that the name actually belonged to the phantom who had invented Zeus and created the Business Club.
Slavik, it turned out, was a 30-year-old who lived an upper-middle-class existence in Anapa, a Russian resort city on the Black Sea. Online photos showed that he enjoyed boating with his wife. The couple had a young daughter. One photo showed Bogachev posing in leopard-print pajamas and dark sunglasses, holding a large cat. The investigative team realized that he had written the first draft of Zeus when he was just 22 years old.
The team couldn’t find specific evidence of a link between Bogachev and the Russian state, but some entity seemed to be feeding Slavik specific terms to search for in his vast network of zombie computers.
But that wasn’t the most astounding revelation that the Dutch investigators turned up. As they continued their analysis, they noticed that someone at the helm of GameOver had been regularly searching tens of thousands of the botnet’s infected computers in certain countries for things like email addresses belonging to Georgian intelligence officers or leaders of elite Turkish police units, or documents that bore markings designating classified Ukrainian secrets. Whoever it was was also searching for classified material linked to the Syrian conflict and Russian arms dealing. At some point, a light bulb went off. “These are espionage commands,” Sandee says.
GameOver wasn’t merely a sophisticated piece of criminal malware; it was a sophisticated intelligence-gathering tool. And as best as the investigators could determine, Bogachev was the only member of the Business Club who knew about this particular feature of the botnet. He appeared to be running a covert operation right under the noses of the world’s most prolific bank robbers. The FBI and Fox-IT team couldn’t find specific evidence of a link between Bogachev and the Russian state, but some entity seemed to be feeding Slavik specific terms to search for in his vast network of zombie computers. Bogachev, it appeared, was a Russian intelligence asset.
In March 2014, investigators could even watch as an international crisis played out live inside the snow globe of Bogachev’s criminal botnet. Weeks after the Sochi Olympics, Russian forces seized the Ukrainian region of Crimea and began efforts to destabilize the country’s eastern border. Right in step with the Russian campaign, Bogachev redirected a section of his botnet to search for politically sensitive information on infected Ukrainian computers—trawling for intelligence that might help the Russians anticipate their adversaries’ next moves.
The team was able to construct a tentative theory and history of Bogachev’s spycraft. The apparent state connection helped explain why Bogachev had been able to operate a major criminal enterprise with such impunity, but it also shed new light on some of the milestones in the life of Zeus. The system that Slavik used to make his intelligence queries dated back approximately to the moment in 2010 when he faked his retirement and made access to his malware far more exclusive. Perhaps Slavik had appeared on the radar of the Russian security services at some point that year, and in exchange for a license to commit fraud without prosecution—outside Russia, of course—the state made certain demands. To carry them out with maximum efficacy and secrecy, Slavik asserted tighter control over his criminal network.
The discovery of Bogachev’s likely intelligence ties introduced some trickiness to the operation to take down GameOver—especially when it came to the prospect of enlisting Russian cooperation. Otherwise, the plan was rumbling along. Now that the investigators had zeroed in on Bogachev, a grand jury could finally indict him as the mastermind behind GameOver Zeus. American prosecutors scrambled to bring together civil court orders to seize and disrupt the network. “When we were really running, we had nine people working this—and we only have 55 total,” says Michael Comber of the US Attorney’s office in Pittsburgh. Over a span of months, the team painstakingly went to internet service providers to ask permission to seize GameOver’s existing proxy servers, ensuring that at the right moment, they could flip those servers and disable Slavik’s control. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security, Carnegie Mellon, and a number of antivirus companies readied themselves to help customers regain access to their infected computers. Weekly conference calls spanned continents as officials coordinated action in Britain, the US, and elsewhere.
By late spring 2014, as pro-Russian forces fought in Ukraine proper, the American-led forces got ready to move in on GameOver. They’d been plotting to take down the network for more than a year, carefully reverse-engineering the malware, covertly reading the criminal gang’s chat logs to understand the group’s psychology, and tracing the physical infrastructure of servers that allowed the network to propagate around the globe. “By this point, these researchers knew the malware better than the author,” says Elliott Peterson, one of the lead FBI agents on the case. As Mularski recalls, the team checked off all the crucial boxes: “Criminally, we can do it. Civilly, we can do it. Technically we can do it.” Working with a cast of dozens, communicating with more than 70 internet service providers and a dozen other law enforcement agencies from Canada to the United Kingdom to Japan to Italy, the team readied an attack to commence on Friday, May 30.
THE WEEK LEADING up to the attack was a frantic scramble. When Werner and Stone-Gross arrived in Pittsburgh, Peterson had them over to his family’s apartment, where his kids gawked at Werner and his German accent. Over dinner and Fathead beer, they took stock of their looming attempt. They were running way behind—Werner’s code wasn’t close to being ready. Over the rest of the week, as Werner and Stone-Gross raced to finish writing, another team assembled the last court orders, and still others ran herd on the ad hoc group of two dozen governments, companies, and consultants who were helping to take GameOver Zeus down. The White House had been briefed on the plan and was waiting for results. But the effort seemed to be coming apart at the seams.
For instance, the team had known for months that the GameOver botnet was controlled by a server in Canada. But then, just days before the attack, they discovered that there was a second command server in Ukraine. The realization made hearts drop. “If you’re not even aware of the second box,” Werner says, “how sure are you that there’s not a third box?”
Bogachev readied for battle—wrestling for control of his network, testing it, redirecting traffic to new servers, and deciphering the Pittsburgh team’s method of attack.
On Thursday, Stone-Gross carefully talked more than a dozen internet service providers through the procedures they needed to follow as the attack launched. At the last minute, one key service provider backed out, fearful that it would incur Slavik’s wrath. Then, on Friday morning, Werner and Stone-Gross arrived at their office building on the banks of the Monongahela River to find that one of the operation’s partners, McAfee, had prematurely published a blog post announcing the attack on the botnet, titled “It’s ‘Game Over’ for Zeus and Cryptolocker.”
After frantic calls to get the post taken down, the attack finally began. Canadian and Ukrainian authorities shut down GameOver’s command servers, knocking each offline in turn. And Werner and Stone-Gross began redirecting the zombie computers into a carefully built “sinkhole” that would absorb the nefarious traffic, blocking the Business Club’s access to its own systems. For hours, the attack went nowhere; the researchers struggled to figure out where the bugs lay in their code.
By 1 pm, their sinkhole had drawn in only about a hundred infected computers, an infinitesimal percentage of the botnet that had grown to as many as half a million machines. A line of officials stood behind Werner and Stone-Gross in a conference room, literally watching over their shoulders as the two engineers debugged their code. “Not to put any pressure on you,” Mularski urged at one point, “but it’d be great if you could get it running.”
Finally, by evening Pittsburgh time, the traffic to their sinkhole began to climb. On the other side of the world, Bogachev came online. The attack had interrupted his weekend. Perhaps he didn’t think much of it at first, given that he had easily weathered other attempts to seize control of his botnet. “Right away, he’s kicking the tires. He doesn’t know what we’ve done,” Peterson recalls. That night, yet again, Bogachev readied for battle—wrestling for control of his network, testing it, redirecting traffic to new servers, and deciphering the Pittsburgh team’s method of attack. “It was cyber-hand-to-hand combat,” recalls Pittsburgh US attorney David Hickton. “It was amazing to watch.”
The team was able to monitor Bogachev’s communication channels without his knowledge and knock out his Turkish proxy server. Then they watched as he tried to come back online using the anonymizing service Tor, desperate to get some visibility into his losses. Finally, after hours of losing battles, Slavik went silent. The attack, it appeared, was more than he had bargained for. The Pittsburgh team powered on through the night. “He must’ve realized it was law enforcement. It wasn’t just the normal researcher attack,” Stone-Gross says.
By Sunday night, nearly 60 hours in, the Pittsburgh team knew they’d won. On Monday, June 2, the FBI and Justice Department announced the takedown and unsealed a 14-count indictment against Bogachev.
Over the coming weeks, Slavik and the researchers continued to do occasional battle—Slavik timed one counterattack for a moment when Werner and Stone-Gross were presenting at a conference in Montreal—but ultimately the duo prevailed. Amazingly, more than two years later, the success has largely stuck: The botnet has never reassembled, though about 5,000 computers worldwide remain infected with Zeus malware. The industry partners are still maintaining the server sinkhole that’s swallowing up the traffic from those infected computers.
For about a year after the attack, so-called account-takeover fraud all but disappeared in the US. Researchers and investigators had long assumed that dozens of gangs must have been responsible for the criminal onslaught that the industry endured between 2012 and 2014. But nearly all of the thefts came from just a small group of highly skilled criminals—the so-called Business Club. “You come into this and hear they’re everywhere,” Peterson says, “and actually it’s a very tiny network, and they’re much easier to disrupt than you think.”
IN 2015, THE State Department put a $3 million bounty on Bogachev’s head, the highest reward the US has ever posted for a cybercriminal. But he remains at large. According to US intelligence sources, the government does not, in fact, suspect that Bogachev took part in the Russian campaign to influence the US election. Rather, the Obama administration included him in the sanctions to put pressure on the Russian government. The hope is that the Russians might be willing to hand over Bogachev as a sign of good faith, since the botnet that made him so useful to them is defunct. Or maybe, with the added attention, someone will decide they want the $3 million reward and tip off the FBI.
The uncomfortable truth is that Bogachev and other Russian cybercriminals lie pretty far beyond America’s reach.
But the uncomfortable truth is that Bogachev and other Russian cybercriminals lie pretty far beyond America’s reach. The huge questions that linger over the GameOver case—like those surrounding Bogachev’s precise relationship to Russian intelligence and the full tally of his thefts, which officials can only round to the nearest $100 million or so—foreshadow the challenges that face the analysts looking into the election hacks. Fortunately, the agents on the case have experience to draw from: The DNC breach is reportedly being investigated by the FBI’s Pittsburgh office.
In the meantime, Mularski’s squad and the cybersecurity industry have also moved on to new threats. The criminal tactics that were so novel when Bogachev helped pioneer them have now grown commonplace. The spread of ransomware is accelerating. And today’s botnets—especially Mirai, a network of infected Internet of Things devices—are even more dangerous than Bogachev’s creations.
Nobody knows what Bogachev himself might be cooking up next. Tips continue to arrive regularly in Pittsburgh regarding his whereabouts. But there are no real signs he has reemerged. At least not yet.
…thank you.,..and your welcome WIRED and Garrett M. Graff and Chad Hagen…. really nice work…………w
“A Minority President: Why the Polls Failed, and What the Majority Can Do.”
George Lakoff didn’t start off in the world of politics. He was a founding father of cognitive linguistics, starting with his 1980 book, “Metaphors We Live By“ (co-authored with philosopher Mark Johnson). The book showed how immediate, concrete experience — bodily orientation, physical movement, and so on — structures our understanding of more complex and abstract experiences via “conceptual metaphors” such as “Consciousness Is Up,” “Love Is a Journey,” etc.
Facing the rise of Newt Gingrich in the 1990s and bewildered by how he and other liberals could not make logical sense of conservative ideology (what do gun rights, low taxes and banning abortion have in common?), Lakoff found an answer in conceptual metaphors derived form two contrasting family models explicated by Diana Baumrind as authoritarian (“strict father” in Lakoff’s terms) and authoritative (“nurturant parent”), as described in his 1996 book, “Moral Politics.” His 2004 book, “Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate,” drew on a wider range of cognitive science and gained a mass audience, but failed to fundamentally change how liberals and Democrats approach politics, as was richly illustrated by the recent election of Donald Trump.
But Lakoff is nothing if not persistent, and has penned an election postmortem like no other, “A Minority President: Why the Polls Failed, and What the Majority Can Do.” It rearticulates the arguments of his earlier books — including others like “The Political Mind,” Whose Freedom?“ and Philosophy in the Flesh — along with fresh analysis and new insights that push hard for opening up a new realm of possibilities, instead of retrenching, retreating or repeating strategies and tactics that have failed in the past. In it, Lakoff displays both an intimate familiarity with detailed examples and a broad-based visionary outlook.
Salon spoke with him to explore both, with an eye toward expanding the horizon of the possible on one hand, and avoiding potholes on the other. He’s talking with Chelsea Green about expanding the essay into a book, but the ideas in it really can’t wait. The Democratic establishment needs to be shaken up, and the rest of us need to be stirred.
You’ve been writing about politics from a cognitive science perspective for more than 20 years. A lot of people have listened to you, but the Democratic political establishment as a whole has not, and that was reflected in the election of Donald Trump. As you note in your article, “The polls, the media, and the Democratic Party all failed to understand conservative values and their importance. They failed to understand unconscious thought and moral worldviews. While hailing science in the case of climate change, they ignored science when it came to their own minds.” So let’s start there. What do you mean by that, and how did it happen?
If you’re a conservative going into politics, there’s a good chance you’ll study cognitive science, that is, how people really think and how to market things by advertising. So they know people think using frames and metaphors and narratives and images and emotions and so on. That’s second nature to anybody who’s taken a marketing course. Many of the people who have gone into conservative communications have done that, and know very well how to market their ideas.
Now, if instead you are a progressive, and you go to college and you’re interested in politics, what are you going to study? Well, you’ll study political science, law, public policy, economic theory and so on, but you’re not going to wind up studying marketing, most likely, and you’re not going to study either cognitive science or neuroscience.
What you’ll learn in those courses is what is called Enlightenment reason, from 1650, from Descartes. And here’s what that reasoning says: What makes us human beings is that we are rational animals and rationality is defined in terms of logic. Recall that Descartes was a mathematician and logician. He argued that reasoning is like seeing a logical proof. Secondly, he argued that our ideas can fit the world because, as he said, “God would not lie to us.” The assumption is that ideas directly fit the world.
They’re also, Descartes argued, disembodied. He said that if ideas were embodied, were part of the body, then physical laws would apply to them, and we would not have free will. And in fact, they are embodied, physical laws do apply to them, and we do not have absolute free will. We’re trapped by what the neural systems of our brains have accumulated. We can only see what our brains allow us to understand, and that’s an important thing.
So what he said, basically, was that there are no frames, no embodiment, no metaphor — none of the things people really use to reason. Moreover if we think logically and we all have the same reasoning, if you just tell people the facts, they should reason to the same correct conclusion. And that just isn’t true. And that keeps not being true, and liberals keep making the same mistake year after year after year. So that’s a very important thing.
After “Don’t Think of an Elephant” was published, you got a lot of attention but your message really didn’t sink in. I think it was largely because of what you said above — what you were saying simply didn’t fit into the Enlightenment worldview that Democratic elites took for granted from their education.
When I started teaching framing the first thing I would tell the class is “Don’t think of an elephant,” and of course, they think of an elephant. I wrote a book on it because the point is, if you negate a frame, you have to activate the frame, because you have to know what you’re negating. If you use logic against something, you’re strengthening it. And that lesson was not understood. So if people think in terms of logic — it’s a mistake that’s made every day on MSNBC — you go on there and you’ll get people saying, “Well, you know, Trump said this, and some Republicans said that and Jeff Sessions said this and here are the facts that show they’re wrong.” You just keep repeating the things that you’re negating. And that just strengthens them.
Did that happen in Hillary Clinton’s campaign?
That showed up there. The Clinton campaign decided that the best way to defeat Trump was to use his own words against him. So they showed these clips of Trump saying outrageous things. Now what Trump was doing in those clips was saying out loud things that upset liberals, and that’s exactly what his followers liked about him. So of course they were showing what actually was helping Trump with his supporters.
I tried to convince people in the Clinton campaign — early on, I wrote a piece called “Understanding Trump,” in March 2016, and it was sent to everybody in the Clinton campaign. Everybody at the PAC, for example, got a copy of it. It didn’t matter; they were doing what they were told to do.
Another problem was the assumption that all you have to do is look at issues, and give the facts about issues, and the facts about the issues supposedly show up in polls, and then they apply demographics. So there was this assumption, for example, that educated women in the Philadelphia suburbs were naturally going to vote for Hillary, because they were highly educated. They turned out also to be Republican, and what made them Republican was Republican views, like Republican views about the Supreme Court, abortion, things like that. So they didn’t all go out and vote for Hillary.
Or the campaign assumed that since Trump attacked Latinos, and Latino leaders didn’t like Trump, that the Latinos would all vote for Hillary, and many Latinos voted for Trump. Why? Because “strict father” morality is big in Latino culture. The campaign was not looking at values. They were looking at demographics, and they missed the role of values.
Which you’ve been pounding on for a long time now.
Well over a decade. During the Bush administration, I talked to the Democratic caucus. I was invited by Nancy Pelosi, and I talked to them about “Don’t Think of an Elephant,” and the strict father/nurturant parent distinction, and I pointed out that one thing strict fathers can’t do is betray trust. It turned out that the Southerners in the caucus agreed strongly, and they wanted to have me work with them on talking about Bush betraying trust. But Nancy said, “Well, we should check with the polls first,” and she checked with one of the major pollsters who said, “Oh no, my polls show that people trust Bush, therefore we can’t use it.” And the idea is to follow the polls, rather than change them. And this is a big difference between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans try to change the polls, whereas Democrats try to follow the polls.
There are other problems with polling you point out as well.
Yes. The next problem has to do with going issue by issue. This is happening right now. Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer went onto the Rachel Maddow show on the same day, and they said, “The American people agree with us, issue by issue, each case and we’re going to press Trump issue by issue, and we’re going to start with health care and go on to other things.” What they’re missing is values.
They’re missing the idea that many Americans who depend on health care, affordable health care, for example, have strict-father positions and voted for Trump against their interests. And this is something has been known for ages, that a lot of poor conservatives vote against their material interests, because they’re voting for their worldview. And the reason for it is that their moral worldview defines who they are. They are not going to vote against their own definition of who they are.
This is missed by the unions as well. Unions don’t really understand their function. Unions are instruments of freedom. Unions free people from corporate servitude. From corporations saying what hours they can work, what wages are possible, and so on. The argument against unions that has come in so-called “right-to-work” laws misses the fact that unions are instruments of freedom, and instead suggests that unions go against freedom. They go against your rights. And the unions don’t know how to argue against right-to-work laws. So that’s a problem with liberals working in unions.
There’s something more basic underlying all this, isn’t there? From “Moral Politics” on you’ve been hammering on liberals’ failure to claim and proclaim their own values.
All progressives and liberals have a moral worldview, what I described as the nurturant-parent worldview. When applied to politics it goes like this: Citizens care about other citizens, they have empathy for other citizens, and the work of the government is to provide public resources for everybody. Public resources, from the very beginning of our country, not only apply to each private citizen, but they also apply to business. From the very beginning we had public roads and bridges and public education, we had a national bank, and the patent office for businesses, and interstate commerce laws for business, and so on. And a judicial system that’s mostly used for business.
Since then the government has supported business even more, especially through the promotion of scientific research, the development of pharmaceuticals, computer science, support of public research and public universities. The Internet began as ARPANET, is in the Defense Department. Think about satellite communication — that was made possible by NASA and NOAA. Very important things we did. What about things like GPS systems and cell phones? Our government is maintaining not just our cell phones, but the world economic system which all uses GPS systems and cell phones.
People don’t see the role of public resources, which are there to run the world economy, to help you in your everyday life, to give you communications, like this interview right now. This is just something that’s never said. When I say this to progressives, they say, “Well, of course that’s true, isn’t that obvious?” The answer is no. It is not obvious, because the next question I ask is, “Have you ever said it?” And the answer is no. The question after that is, “Will you go out from now on and say it?” And I don’t get enthusiastic “Yes!” answers.
People need to know this and it needs to be said all the time. It needs to be said about every single business. The person who has done best at it has been Elizabeth Warren. When Obama tried to use the same message he got it wrong, he said if you have a business you didn’t build that, and then he got attacked and he dropped it. But in fact this is something that does need to be out there.
There are other things that need to be said that progressives don’t say because they don’t really understand how framing works. Framing is not obvious. People read “Don’t Think of an Elephant,” they got some of the ideas, but when they tried to apply it, it turned out it’s not so easy to apply. You need some training to do it, and you need some ideas.
For example. Trump said we’re going to get rid of regulation, when there’s a new regulation we’re going to get rid of two for every new one that comes in. But what are regulations? Why do people have them? They’re there for protection of the public in every place. Why do you have environmental regulations? To protect against pollution and global warming and so on. Things that are harmful. Why do you have an SEC regulation? To protect investors, and protect people who have mortgages. Why do you have food and drug regulations? To protect against poisons. This is important. You’re protecting against corporate malfeasance. Corporate harm to the public. When they say, “We’re getting rid of these regulations, no one reports in the media, “They have gotten rid of protections, and they’re going to get rid of more protections!”
You’ve pointed out how Trump has actually been clever in ways that liberals, Democrats and the media didn’t understand. You laid out a number of mechanisms. So can we go through a few of those?
First, let’s talk about how Trump’s tweets work. Trump’s tweets have at least three functions. The first function is what I call preemptive framing. Getting framing out there before reporters can frame it differently. So for example, on the Russian hacking, he tweeted that the evidence showed that it had no effect on the election. Which is a lie, it didn’t say that at all. But the idea was to get it out there to 31 million people looking at his tweets, legitimizing the elections: The Russian hacks didn’t mean anything. He does that a lot, constantly preempting.
The second use of tweets is diversion. When something important is coming up, like the question of whether he is going to use a blind trust, the conflicts of interest. So what does he do instead? He attacks Meryl Streep. And then they talk about Meryl Streep for a couple of days. That’s a diversion.
The third one is that he sends out trial balloons. For example, the stuff about nuclear weapons, he said we need to pay more attention to nukes. If there’s no big outcry and reaction, then he can go on and do the rest. These are ways of disrupting the news cycle, getting the real issues out of the news cycle and turning it to his advantage.
Trump is very, very smart. Trump for 50 years has learned how to use people’s brains against them. That’s what master salesmen do. There’s a certain set of things they do. The first is repeat. Advertisers know this. You turn on your TV, and the same ad comes on over and over and over. The effect on the brain of repetition is that when you hear something it’s understood through the neural circuitry in your brain; it has to become activated. The more it’s repeated, the more that circuitry is activated, and every time it’s activated the synaptic connections become stronger. What that means when they become stronger is two things happen. One, they’re more likely to fire — it’s easier to get those ideas out there if they’re firing — and two, if you hear them often enough they become part of what’s fixed in your brain. They become part of what you naturally understand, and you can only understand what your brain allows you to understand.
Repetition is a way of changing people’s brains. What Trump was doing all through the nomination campaign was that every day he managed to get on TV, and he would repeat different things that activated the same moral framework, and it really worked. In addition you have particular frames that were repeated: “Crooked Hillary,” “crooked Hillary,” “crooked Hillary,” over and over. There wasn’t anything Hillary did that was crooked. But he kept saying it until people believed it. And they believed it because it was heard enough times to strengthen the neural circuitry in their brains. It wasn’t just stupidity. It’s simply the way brains work.
Another thing he used was grammar, as in “radical Islamic terrorism.” What does “radical” mean? Radical means not part of what is normal and healthy and so on, but something on the fringe, number one. Two, terrorists – people who are out to get you, right? If you modify terrorists, there are two ways in which you can do it. There are two forms of applying adjectives to nouns, and the classic example is “the industrious Japanese,” which assumes either that all Japanese are industrious, or that there are some and I’m picking out those. But the idea that they’re all industrious is activated.
In this case, the idea that all people who are Islamic are terrorists is activated. And they’re radical. If you say that, it’s not like you’re picking out the tiny proportion who happened to be terrorists and radical. You’re saying it about everybody. That’s part of grammar. He is using grammar to get his point across, to get his worldview across, and then criticizing Clinton and Obama for not doing it, as if not saying it is not recognizing the threat.
What about metaphor, which is something you’ve written and talked about for years?
“Brexit” was an excellent example of that. It had to do with exiting, which is a general metaphor. Throughout the world, states of mind are understood in terms of locations. You go into your café, you get a cup of coffee, you go out of the café — you’re in the same location you were in before. Now apply that to states: You go into a state, and when you go out of it you should be in the same state you were in before. But that doesn’t work. It’s not true. With Brexit, the metaphor was that if you entered the EU at a certain point in time — with a certain state being true of England at that time — and then you exit, you should be in the same state you were in before. Absolutely false. Brexit was based on the false assumption that England could go back to some ideal state it was in before.
The same thing is true with “Make America great again.” The assumption is: This has been a great country before, and now we can go back to what it was before, as if electing Trump would not change it in the worst way, and as if you could go back to some idealized past. Which you can’t, for many reasons, like a technological revolution that’s gotten rid of lots of jobs, and international trade, and so on. The world is not the same as it was before. So you’re using that universal metaphor to convince people. And that’s important.
Together, all you’ve just said makes a strong case that Trump’s success stems from approaching politics like a salesman, which ties back to your original point about how Republicans approach politics versus Democrats. In that sense, Trump is very much a realization of what Republicans have been moving towards for a long time. But there’s another sense in which he represents a culmination: his authoritarianism, rooted in strict-father morality.
Exactly. Except for gay marriage — he has friends who are gay — he has the whole strict-father thing, moral hierarchy. If you have strict-father morality what that says is it’s your concern alone that matters, reteaching individual responsibility. That means responsibility for yourself, not social responsibility. Not caring about other citizens; that’s weak. You should care about yourself; that’s strong. That is how he sees that the world naturally works. There is a hierarchy of morality because the strict father in a family gets his position of strength because he supposedly knows right from wrong, and in that there is an assumption that those who are most moral should rule.
So how do you tell who’s most moral? You look at who has come out on top. You have God above man, man above nature, conquering nature, so nature is there for us to use. Then you would have the rich above the poor — they deserve it, because they are disciplined. And the powerful above the non-powerful — they deserve it, they’ve become powerful. And you have adults above children. So in 21 states children in classes and on teams can be beaten by the teachers and coaches if they don’t show proper respect and obedience.
Western culture above non-Western culture, and so you get all the stuff on Breitbart about white Western culture. Of course Islamists are not in Western culture, Mexicans are not in Western culture, Asians are not in Western culture, etc. America above other nations: We should be great again, we should rule everybody, we should be able to intimidate everybody. And then other ones follow. You have men above women, whites above nonwhites, Christians above non-Christians, and straights above gays.
So you have this moral hierarchy in Republican thought for a long time; it’s not like this is new. Here it is bold, right out there, as strong as you can get, and you have the ultimate “strict father,” who wants to be the dictator of the country, if not the world.
At the very end of the article you get into what people can do in response, how people can fight back, and I wanted to give you some time to talk about that. There is a very real potential there that you talk about: It can be harder to break through to elites, but easier to reach ordinary people whose lives are directly affected. You have talked about the importance of reaching out to people you call “bi-conceptuals,” including conservatives.
There is within conservatism this idea of in-group nurturance, taking care of your own. This happens in churches; you go to a bigger evangelical church and they have the free babysitting and investment advice and will help you if you’re down on your luck and so on. If you go to the military, which is a strict -father thing, but also in a military base you’re going to get free schooling for your kids, a place to live, cheap goods at the PX, etc. In the military you never leave a wounded brother behind; they’re a band of brothers. See, you have in-group nurturance there. You also have it in conservatism as an institution. One, of the major think tanks in Washington built a large state-of-the-art media center, but also put in a hundred apartments for interns who couldn’t afford Washington prices. So they live together, get to know each other, become friends and they’re taken care of.
A lot of conservatives see their in-group as their local community or their neighbors, and then they will do all sorts of things. If there’s a flood they’ll be out there swinging the sandbags, if there’s a fire they’ll be out there on the lines with the hoses to protect their neighbors’ homes. That is the powerful community version of in-group nurturance, and that is real nurturance, it’s real care.
That can be appealed to, and we need to find ways of talking about that in terms of regulation and protection. What protections are being taken away from the people in your community? That needs to be said over and over again. Are we going to get bad drinking water? Are you going to get poisoned foods? Are you going to get drugs that haven’t been adequately tested that could make you terribly ill?
And many other things: Are you going to lose your health care, but not have something else to replace it? Are you going to lose your Medicare? If you look at those red states and ask, “What about those small towns in those red states?”, a lot of them are like that.
What else needs to be done?
Well two things. First, a citizens’ communication network. We have social media networks now, but people need to have feeds on their Facebook and Twitter pages, of things to say on particular days, and let’s do it from the point of view of the American majority. We’re the majority; here are our values. Let’s make our values clear, let’s have a little handbook about what our values are, and why those things are recommended, and the rationale for putting it out there. We need a website that can be used as a basis for a citizens’ communication network, and I’m going to be involved in starting something to do that.
The other thing is serious training of the NGOs — the foundations and other groups that are there for the public good — in how to talk about these things, how to frame their message and not make mistakes and not help the other side, and to do it always from the point of view of what’s positive. Not attacking Trump implicitly, but by saying what’s good for the public and why it’s good and then, by the way, this goes against everything that Trump is doing. But the main thing is to frame it in terms of public good.
Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English.
Follow him on Twitter at @PaulHRosenberg.
…..thanks Paul… et al and you’re welcome…………..w
Source: Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons
In late 2015, we commenced what would become an ongoing conversation about then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s mental health.
We were concerned that, given his “straightforward” or “outsider” presentation and charisma, he would appeal to people who were unaware of the dangers of his obvious narcissistic personality type, and the offensive behaviors that can accompany it. These behaviors include but are not limited to condescension, gross exaggeration (lying), bullying, jealousy, fragile self-esteem, lack of compassion, and viewing the world as Us-vs.-Them. Having observed the schoolyard-bully tactics Trump employed during public debates, as well as his boasting presentation during interviews, we felt it was important to raise awareness about his behaviors. So in January 2016, we posted Bullies: An Exploration Into Different Types of Bullies.
As Trump’s campaign, and his narcissism, gained momentum, so did our efforts. In March 2016, we posted The Narcissistic Personality: How to Spot a Narcissist, in which we shared clinically documented narcissistic behaviors and hoped it would be easy for readers to see that Trump fit every example.
And then on January 31 of this year, Psychology Today’s editors posted Shrinks Battle Over Diagnosing Donald Trump: Chaos in the White House Fuels Discord Amongst the Experts. The article reported on a petition by author and psychologist John Gartner, Ph.D., declaring that Trump has “a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States.” Gartner, a former professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, is currently in private practice in New York and Baltimore. To date, more than 26,000 psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental-health professionals have signed his petition, which has no legal power but drives home the point that these professionals are gravely concerned about the mental health of our president. The point of the editors’ post was to highlight the conflict within the mental-health field: While some believe it is possible to diagnose through observation, some feel it is unethical and inappropriate to do so, while still others question whether or not psychology should be used to address issues of governance at all.
Duty to Warn
Journalist Lawrence O’Donnell has taken it upon himself to champion Gartner’s effort to help educate the public. On his MSBC program, The Last Word, he recently spoke with Gartner and Lance Dodes, M.D., a retired professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, in a segment titled “Mental-Health Experts Say Donald Trump Is Unfit to Serve.” Gartner contended that mental-health professionals have a duty to warn the public of dangerous individuals in their midst. According to Gartner, mental-health professionals can observe a person’s behavior and words, from afar, and diagnose that person. He claimed that the idea of the psychiatric interview as the gold standard for assessment is not true, and added that we have thousands of hours of Trump’s behavior in front of us. He continued:
“As far as ethics go, I would argue with my colleagues that those who don’t speak out are being unethical. If we have knowledge and understanding about the unique danger that Donald Trump presents through our psychiatric training and we don’t say something about it, history is not going to judge us kindly.”
Dodes was asked by O’Donnell to watch and comment on a much-played clip of Trump claiming during a debate that he had lost “hundreds” of friends on 9-11. Dodes’ said there were two pieces to Trump’s lying: First, he lies because of his sociopathic tendencies — “He lies in the way a person scams people; he’s trying to sell an idea or a product by telling you something that’s not true.” The other aspect of his lying was more serious — his loose grip on reality. For example, when he lies and has been told that what he said is not true, he still carries on with the lie. Dodes said that this indicates Trump cannot accept an aspect of reality and therefore rejects it, making his grasp on reality, and his attention to it, loose. “This is an extremely dangerous trait in a president,” Dodes continued. “And that makes him unqualified.”
Both Gartner and Dodes agreed that as far as the depth of mental illness, this is the “worst case” scenario. Gartner added, “He’s just sane enough to ‘pass’ but is detached from reality.” Gartner argued that what is real for the president is fluid, meaning that it’s malleable. Combine this non-reality with paranoia, and being at a hand’s reach of the nuclear codes is troubling. “He actually imagines he is under attack by people who are not actually attacking him,” Gartner said, creating “a very dangerous combination of someone who can act on his paranoid fantasies in a way that can have catastrophic consequences.”
The Elephant in the Room
On his next broadcast, O’Donnell interviewed author Lee Siegel, who recently wrote an article for the Columbia Journalism Review titled, “Avoiding Questions About Donald Trump’s Mental Health Is a Betrayal to Public Trust.” (Dodes appeared again as well, and both enlightening segments can be viewed here.)
It’s important to note that Siegel wrote:
“Mental illness does not need to be professionally diagnosed. We don’t need to be told by a doctor that the guy coughing and sneezing at the other end of the train car is probably sick…When someone is compulsively lying, continuously contradicting himself, imploring the approval of people even as he is attacking them, exalting people one day and abusing and vilifying them the next, then the question of his mental state is moot. The safe thing to do is not just to stay away from him, but to keep him away from situations where he can do harm.”
In “Time Perspective Therapy” Terms
Through our observations, we can see Trump as embodying an unconstrained present hedonist—living only in the present moment and saying whatever it takes to pump up his ego and assuage his inherent low self-esteem, without thought of past reality or potentially devastating future consequences. He is the poster boy for a time perspective that is totally unbalanced. Unfortunately, given his personality type, there is little hope of reversal or any meaningful improvement.
What can we do? Be observant. Be vigilant. Share this article to spread awareness. Write or call your elected government officials and state your concerns about Donald Trump’s mental health. And hope that with the backing of 26,000 mental-health therapists (a number that continues to grow — last month the number was 18,000) in agreement that he is mentally unfit to be President of the United States, we will have a new, mentally fit president as soon as possible through some judicially appropriate political action.
No matter whom you voted for in the election, or if you didn’t vote, we the people did this — at least those of us representing an Electoral Colleges majority. We need to correct this threat to our ecology, our society, and our international relations soon—before it’s too late…..
On the day of North Korea’s first atomic test in 2006, aides to President George W. Bush began phoning foreign capitals to reassure allies startled by Pyongyang’s surprising feat. The test, aides said, had been mostly a failure: a botched, 1-kiloton cry for attention from a regime that had no warheads or reliable delivery systems and would never be allowed to obtain them.
“The current course that they are on is unacceptable,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said publicly at the time, “and the international community is going to act.”
A decade later, that confidence has all but evaporated.
After a week in which Pyongyang successfully lobbed four intermediate-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, U.S. officials are no longer seeing North Korea’s weapons tests as amateurish, attention-grabbing provocations. Instead, they are viewed as evidence of a rapidly growing threat — and one that increasingly defies solution.
Over the past year, technological advances in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have dramatically raised the stakes in the years-long standoff between the United States and the reclusive communist regime, according to current and former U.S. officials and Korea experts. Pyongyang’s growing arsenal has rattled key U.S. allies and spurred efforts by all sides to develop new first-strike capabilities, increasing the risk that a simple mistake could trigger a devastating regional war, the analysts said.
In response to continued testing o missiles and nuclear weapons by North Korea, the United States is in the process of deploying an advanced missile defense system called THAAD in South Korea. But China is not happy with the plan, saying the system could undermine its own defense systems.
The military developments are coming at a time of unusual political ferment, with a new and largely untested administration in Washington and with South Korea’s government coping with an impeachment crisis. Longtime observers say the risk of conflict is higher than it has been in years, and it is likely to rise further as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seeks to fulfill his pledge to field long-range missiles capable of striking U.S. cities.
“This is no longer about a lonely dictator crying for attention or demanding negotiations,” said Victor Cha, a former adviser on North Korea to the Bush administration and the Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. “This is now a military testing program to acquire a proven capability.”
Pyongyang’s ambition to become an advanced nuclear-armed state is not new. North Korea began building its first reactor for making plutonium more than three decades ago. Over the years, it has shown ingenuity in increasing the range and power of a stockpile of homemade short- and medium-range missiles, all based on Soviet-era designs.
Often, in the past, the new innovations have been accompanied by demands: a clamoring for security guarantees and international respect by a paranoid and nearly friendless government that perceives its democratic neighbors as plotting its destruction. After the first atomic test in 2006, then-leader Kim Jong Il threatened to launch nuclear missiles unless Washington agreed to face-to-face talks.
North Korea has been slammed instead with ever-tighter United Nations sanctions meant to cut off access to technology and foreign cash flows. Yet, despite the trade restrictions, diplomatic isolation, threats and occasional sabotage, the country’s weapons programs have continued their upward march, goaded forward by dictators willing to sacrifice their citizens’ well-being to grow the country’s military might.
And now, in the fifth year of Kim Jong Un’s rule, progress is coming in leaps.
Pyongyang’s fifth and latest nuclear weapons test occurred on Sept. 9 on the 68th anniversary of North Korea’s founding. Seismic monitoring stations picked up vibrations from the underground blast and quickly determined that this one was exceptional.
Scientific analyses of the test determined that the new bomb’s explosive yield approached 30 kilotons, two times the force of the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. The device was twice as powerful as the bomb North Korea tested just nine months earlier, and it was 30 times stronger than one detonated in 2006 in a remote mountain tunnel.
More ominously, North Korea last March displayed a new compact bomb, one that appears small enough to fit inside the nose cone of one of its indigenously produced missiles.
Regardless of whether the miniature bomb is real or a clever prop, North Korea does finally appear to be “on the verge of a nuclear breakout,” said Robert Litwak, an expert on nuclear proliferation and director of International Security Studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He said Pyongyang’s arsenal is believed to now contain as many as 20 nuclear bombs, along with enough plutonium and highly enriched uranium to make dozens more.
“When I got into this field,” Litwak said at a symposium on North Korea this month, “I couldn’t have conceived of North Korea acquiring a nuclear arsenal approaching half the size of Great Britain’s.”
The country’s missiles also have grown more sophisticated. Last year, North Korea’s military conducted the first test of a two-stage ballistic missile that uses solid fuel — a significant advance over the country’s existing liquid-fueled rockets because they can be moved easily and launched quickly. Also in 2016, North Korea broadcast images of engineers testing engines for a new class of advanced missiles with true intercontinental range, potentially putting cities on the U.S. mainland within reach.
The provocations have continued in the weeks since the inauguration of President Trump, who, just before taking office, appeared to taunt Pyongyang in a Twitter post, saying that North Korea’s plan for building intercontinental ballistic missiles “won’t happen.”
A month later, Kim launched one of the country’s new solid-fuel missiles, interrupting Trump’s Mar-a-Lago dinner with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Last week’s coordinated launch of four intermediate-range missiles appeared intended to showcase the country’s ability to fire multiple rockets simultaneously at U.S. military bases in Japan, increasing the likelihood that some will penetrate antimissile shields.
North Korea’s state-run media has occasionally shown propaganda footage of Kim huddling with his generals over what some analysts have jokingly called the “map of death”: a chart that portrays Japanese and U.S. mainland cities as potential targets.
The laughter has now stopped, said Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on North Korean weapons systems. “This idea that these things were just bargaining chips — something that was true years ago — is superseded by the fact that there is now a rocket force . . . with a commander and a headquarters and subordinate bases, all with missiles,” said Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. “This is now a living, breathing thing.”
There have been notable failures as well. Numerous test rockets have drifted far off course, and others never made it off the launchpad. Many analysts say it could still be several years before Kim can construct a true ICBM that could reliably reach the U.S. mainland, and perhaps longer before he can demonstrate an ability to incorporate a nuclear payload into his rocket design. Yet, already, the basic components for a future arsenal of long-range, nuclear-tipped missiles are in place, Lewis said.
“The ICBM program is real,” Lewis said. “They’ve showed us their static engine test. They showed us the mock-up of the nuclear warhead. They have done everything short of actually testing the ICBM. When they do test it, the first time it will probably fail. But eventually it will work. And when it works, people are going to freak out.”
Danger of miscalculation
For decades, the United States and its East Asian allies have tried an array of strategies to blunt North Korea’s progress, ranging from diplomacy to covert operations to defensive antimissile shields. Lately, the search for solutions has taken on an intensity not seen in years.
As diplomatic initiatives have stalled, U.S., Japanese and South Korean officials have broadened the search for measures to ensure that Pyongyang’s missiles remain grounded, or — in the event of a launch — can be brought down before they reach their target. The efforts have proved to be partly successful at best.
Three years ago, alarmed by North Korea’s advances on missile systems, the Obama administration ordered the Pentagon and intelligence agencies to deploy highly classified cyber and electronic measures against North Korea, largely aimed at undermining the country’s nuclear and missile programs, two former senior administration officials said. Aspects of the initiatives were described in a recent report by the New York Times. The effort was further intensified last year, the officials said, in response to new intelligence assessments showing North Korea inching closer to its goal of fielding long-range ballistic missiles.
The clandestine effort begun under President Barack Obama appears to have borne fruit, judging from a rash of missile failures in the past year, said one former official familiar with the program. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the secret operations.
“We’re stopping shipments. We’re making sure things don’t work the way they’re supposed to,” one former official said. “We’ve been able to delay things, in some cases probably by a lot. It’s a cat-and-mouse game.”
But the second official, familiar with the Pentagon’s cyberwarfare efforts, acknowledged that North Korea remains an exceptionally difficult target because of its isolation and limited digital infrastructure. The official suggested that at least some of the recent missile failures were probably caused by North Korean errors. “I would be wary of claiming too much,” he said.
“We were trying to use all the tools that were available to us in order to degrade as much of their capabilities as possible,” a second former official said. “But we just did not have nearly as much game as we should have.”
In handoff meetings with Trump, Obama described the gathering threat in stark terms, calling it the most serious proliferation challenge facing the new administration, according to aides familiar with the discussions.
The Trump White House has since convened three deputies’ committee meetings on North Korea and ordered a new, top-to-bottom threat assessment. White House officials say that Trump is weighing all options, from a new diplomatic initiative to enhanced military capabilities, possibly including a highly controversial return of tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea for the first time since the early 1990s.
The administration is dispatching Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to East Asia this week to confer with counterparts in Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul. And the White House is defending its decision last week to send antimissile batteries to South Korea despite vehement opposition from China.
The initiatives have failed to calm tensions in the region. As more missiles streak across North Korea’s eastern coast, Japanese and South Korean officials are pledging increased investments in defensive shields and highly accurate, conventionally armed missiles designed to preemptively destroy North Korean launch sites and command centers if an attack seems imminent. North Korea has responded with similar threats, describing its recent missile launches as a dry run for a preemptive attack on U.S. bases in Japan, the presumed staging ground for forces preparing to come to South Korea’s aid if war breaks out.
In the past, such a strike would be seen as suicidal, as it would certainly result in a devastating counterattack against North Korea that would probably destroy the regime itself. But Kim is betting that an arsenal of long-range, nuclear-tipped missiles would serve as an effective deterrent, said Cha, the former Bush administration adviser.
“That’s why they want to be able to reach the continental United States, so they can effectively hold us hostage,” Cha said. “Do we really want to trade Los Angeles for whatever city in North Korea?”
Such an attack on the U.S. mainland is not yet within North Korea’s grasp, and U.S. officials hope they can eventually neutralize the threat with improvements in antimissile systems. But in the meantime, each new advance increases the chance that a small mishap could rapidly escalate into all-out war, Cha said. In a crisis, “everyone is put in a use-it-or-lose-it situation, in which everyone feels he has to go first,” he said.
“The growing danger now,” he said, “is miscalculation.”
Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report…..
Eight countries have performed nuclear tests. The United States and U.S.S.R. have performed the most explosive tests in history.
……. …”Wikileaks has carefully reviewed the “Year Zero” disclosure and published substantive CIA documentation while avoiding the distribution of ‘armed’ cyberweapons until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the CIA’s program and how such ‘weapons’ should analyzed, disarmed and published.”….
….does it get any more fun than this?……..don’t answer that!…….w
Revelations by WikiLeaks raise concerns about the extent to which the C.I.A. can peek in on domestic and foreign targets, and how much private companies have compromised their customers.
On Tuesday morning, WikiLeaks released eight thousand seven hundred and sixty-one files that it said were “from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence,” in Langley, Virginia. The group called the collection “Year Zero,” the first installment of a larger project, Vault 7, which reveals the “hacking capacity” of the C.I.A.—and which is, in turn, part of a larger archive that, it claimed, had “been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.” In other words, WikiLeaks has the files because the C.I.A. had “lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized ‘zero day’ exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation.” (WikiLeaks seems to have redacted some of the sensitive code.) The C.I.A. has had no comment, but multiple news organizations have reported that, at first glance, according to their intelligence sources, the material looks as if it did come from the agency. (After the release, Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked a cache of documents in 2013, tweeted, “Still working through the publication, but what @Wikileaks has here is genuinely a big deal. Looks authentic.”) The dates on some of the files are as recent as 2016. The size and the currency of the apparent breach raises a number of questions. Here are five to start with.
1. How many ways might the C.I.A. be watching? The files discuss the use of basic consumer products for surveillance. One of the more striking details involves your Samsung SmartTV listening in on you, perhaps in collaboration with the camera or the microphone in your iPhone—even when the television is turned off. A television could also potentially yield information about what news programs or non-English-language programs people watch—possible indicators of their political leanings, religious beliefs, or associations. These are not new scenarios for privacy advocates; some of the lawyers and journalists working on these matters put their phones in the refrigerator when having a sensitive conversation. But the files suggest that the C.I.A. has gone from the concept stage to the actual building of a box of tools that can be used to break into consumer electronics. (The tool for taking over a Samsung SmartTV is called the Weeping Angel, which raises another question: how much time do C.I.A. contractors spend watching “Doctor Who”?) It also looks as if the C.I.A. may have a way to get around the encryption features of messaging systems. And there is talk of “Potential Mission Areas,” such as the control systems of cars. (It is not clear, from the files, how much of all this has been put into effect, or whether it works in practice.)
2. How much have private companies compromised themselves and their customers? Based on the files, some service providers and equipment manufacturers seem to know a certain amount about what is going on. Will they have to answer for that to the markets and to consumers? What position might this put companies in vis-à-vis other jurisdictions in which they do business? Could the government of China ask Samsung why it hasn’t given it what the company has delivered, intentionally or not, to America? (Maybe it already has.) And what does all this say about the role of the government in defending America’s infrastructure? The files indicate that the U.S. government knows about—and is happy to make use of, and leave uncorrected—vulnerabilities that could also allow bad actors a way into American homes, or, for that matter, American intelligence agencies. On that point:
3. Are Americans the targets? This is going to be a key issue, both politically and legally. If the C.I.A. is developing these tools, and perhaps promulgating them to other intelligence agencies, is it also taking part in domestic spying? How is the line between domestic and foreign defined these days? The Guardian notes that one of the files related to the Samsung sets contains a reference to a “joint workshop with MI5/BTSS (British Security Service),” and that others refer to hackers working out of American diplomatic facilities in Germany. There has been a persistent concern that, in order to get around various statutory and constitutional restrictions on domestic spying, the intelligence agencies have outsourced the actual surveillance to foreign allies, and then shared the intelligence gained with them. (This is an American-centered way of posing the basic concern that people in other countries will have about how these tools might be used against them.) The files will at least pose the question of whether the C.I.A. is following the rules—and whether the rules might need changing. In other words,
4. What will the courts make of this? This is not only an American concern; courts in Europe may have something to say, too, given the strict privacy laws in many countries. Still, let’s start with American courts. An awful lot of the jurisprudence in the area of wiretapping is based on court cases that date back to the nineteen-seventies and imagine police officers having to get telephone-company technicians to open a box full of wires. Maybe the television-set-as-home-invader scenario will help push judges to take a fresh, hard look at that body of law. This would be something to ask Neil Gorsuch about at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, later this month. And that brings us to the man who, at the moment, is at the head of the executive branch.
5. What about Donald Trump? Last week, he was complaining that President Obama, or someone, had tapped or bugged or otherwise failed to observe the sanctity of Trump Tower. Does Trump have any Samsung SmartTVs? As my colleague Steve Coll writes, there is a scenario in which Trump might be given pause about surveillance methods that might be directed at him and his associates. Or he might just rail against traitors in public and then ask, behind closed doors, when he gets to use these tools and toys himself. When the news of the revelations broke, some commentators asked if having promoted WikiLeaks’ Hillary Clinton-related revelations at his campaign rallies put Trump in an awkward position. But hypocrisy does not appear to be much of a constraint on this Administration. Nor are concerns about the laws circumscribing intelligence activities: Trump is a man who has complained that the C.I.A. isn’t allowed to torture people. The power of the President and his spies isn’t something that Trump seems to be interested in limiting—that is, as long as the President is named Trump.
Amy Davidson is a New Yorker staff writer. She is a regular Comment contributor for the magazine and writes a Web column, in which she covers war, sports, and everything in between.
…….seriously?………..somebody explain this to me……..and if you missed it elsewhere …… Click Here …
…..good night john boy…..
By Andy Borowitz March 7, 2017
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—At a press conference on Tuesday morning, Ben Carson, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, told reporters that people who are pushed out of windows are “extremely lucky” because they get “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly through the air.”
“Ever since the dawn of civilization, mankind has been enchanted by the dream of flight,” Carson said. “People who get pushed out of windows get to realize that cherished dream.”
“That’s what makes America a great country,” he continued. “People are pushed out of windows every day here.”
Carson said that, while he had never personally been pushed out of a window, “it’s on my bucket list.”
On a subject more pertinent to his new job at hud, Carson said that people without housing “enjoy the rare satisfaction you can only experience by building your own dwelling out of cardboard.”
Andy Borowitz is a New York Times best-selling author and a comedian who has written for The New Yorker since 1998. He writes the Borowitz Report for newyorker.com.
……thanks and you’re welcome Andy…
› NASA’s OMG is the first campaign ever to map all of the glaciers and ocean around Greenland’s coastline.
› NASA researchers have learned from OMG’s first year that cold water from the melting glaciers is cooling warmer subsurface ocean water, with possible implications for how much ocean heat reaches Greenland’s glaciers.
› A UC Irvine-led research team has applied the data to improve coastline maps used to predict future rates of sea level rise.
Less than a year after the first research flight kicked off NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland campaign last March, data from the new program are providing a dramatic increase in knowledge of how Greenland’s ice sheet is melting from below. Two new research papers in the journal Oceanography use OMG observations to document how meltwater and ocean currents are interacting along Greenland’s west coast and to improve seafloor maps used to predict future melting and subsequent sea level rise.
The five-year OMG campaign studies the glaciers and ocean along Greenland’s 27,000-mile coastline. Its goal is to find out where and how fast seawater is melting the glacial ice. Most of the coastline and seafloor around the ice sheet had never been surveyed, so the 2016 flights alone expanded scientists’ knowledge of Greenland significantly. Future years of data collection will reveal the rate of change around the island.
The water circulating close around the Greenland Ice Sheet is like a cold river floating atop a warm, salty ocean. The top 600 feet (200 meters) of colder water is relatively fresh and comes from the Arctic. Below that is saltwater from the south, 6 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit (3 to 4 degrees Celsius) warmer than the fresher water above. The layers don’t mix much because freshwater weighs less than saltwater, so it stays afloat.
If a glacier reaches the ocean where the seafloor is shallow, the ice interacts with frigid freshwater and melts slowly. Conversely, if the seafloor in front of a glacier is deep, the ice spills into the warm subsurface layer of saltwater and may melt relatively rapidly. Satellite remote sensing can’t see below the surface to discern the depth of the seafloor or study the layers of water. OMG makes these measurements with shipboard and airborne instruments.
Tracking meltwater far into the North
In one of the two new papers, Ian Fenty of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and coauthors tracked water up the west coast to see how how it changed as it interacted with hundreds of melting coastal glaciers. They found that in northwest Greenland, cold and fresh water flowing into glacial fjords from the melting surface of the ice sheet is cooling the warmer subsurface water, which circulates clockwise around the island. In one instance, evidence for meltwater-cooled waters was found in fjords 100 miles (160 kilometers) downstream from its source. Fenty noted, “This is the first time we’ve documented glacier meltwater significantly impacting ocean temperatures so far downstream. That shows meltwater can play an important role in determining how much ocean heat ultimately reaches Greenland’s glaciers.”
The OMG data have enough detail that researchers are beginning to pinpoint the ice-loss risk for individual glaciers along the coast, according to OMG Principal Investigator Josh Willis of JPL. “Without OMG, we wouldn’t be able to conclude that Upernavik Glacier is vulnerable to ocean warming, whereas Cornell Glacier is less vulnerable,” he said.
Improving maps used to project sea level rise
In the second paper, lead author Mathieu Morlighem of the University of California, Irvine, used the OMG surveys to refine and improve maps of the bedrock under some of the west coast glaciers. Glaciologists worldwide use these and other maps in modeling the rate of ice loss in Greenland and projecting future losses.
A coastal glacier’s response to a warming climate depends heavily not only on the depth of the seafloor in front of it, as explained above, but on the shape of the bedrock below it. Before OMG, virtually the only measurements Morlighem had of these critical landscapes were long, narrow strips of data collected along flight lines of research aircraft, sometimes tens of miles inland (upstream) from a glacier’s ocean front. He has been estimating the shape of the bedrock outside of the flight lines with the help of other data such as ice flow speeds, but has had no good way to check how accurate his estimates are at the coastline.
Morlighem noted, “OMG [data are] not only improving our knowledge of the ocean floor, they’re improving our knowledge of the topography of the land, too.” This is because the campaign’s seafloor survey revealed features under the ocean, such as troughs cut by glaciers during the last ice age, that must continue upstream under the glacial ice. Therefore, Morlighem said, “By having OMG’s measurements close to the ice front, I can tell whether what I thought about the bed topography is correct or not.” Morlighem was pleasantly surprised to discover that 90 percent of the glacier depths he had estimated were within 160 feet (50 meters) of the actual depths recorded by the OMG survey.
The two papers are available online:
Oceans Melting Greenland: Early Results from NASA’s Ocean-Ice Mission in Greenland:
Improving bed topography mapping of Greenland glaciers using NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) data…
News Media Contact
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
University of California, Irvine
Written by Carol Rasmussen
NASA Earth Science News Team
…..thank you Keith!…..
……..wish more people paid attention……..wbc
BOSTON — If there’s a subtext to this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest gathering of scientists of the year, it’s anxiety for the future.
John Holdren, the top science adviser to President Barack Obama, who spoke at the conference, summed it up like this:
“I’m worried — based on early indications — that we can be in for a major shift in the culture around science and technology and its eminence in government. We appear to have a president now that resists facts that do not comport to his preferences. And that bodes ill on the Obama administration’s emphases on scientific integrity, transparency, and public access.”
Donald Trump has yet to select people for several top science jobs in the administration — such as NASA administrator, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and director of the National Institutes of Health.
But with the appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, he’s signaled that his administration will be making big changes to environmental regulation. One of the first bills he signed as president killed an Obama-era rule that made it harder for coal companies to dump waste in streams.
One of the names floated for Trump’s science adviser is Will Happer, a former Princeton physics professor who recently told ProPublica the science on global warming was “very, very shaky.” I asked Holdren if a science adviser whose opinions conflict with the scientific consensus on climate change is better than none at all. “Absolutely,” he told me. “Because somebody who knows about some domains of science and values science would still offer advice on those topics.”
“Happer is a distinguished physicist,” Holdren says. “He has views that I think are wildly wrong on climate change and immigration. And he’s not particularly diplomatic. But it would still be beneficial to have someone like Happer whispering in the president’s ear on the importance of basic research. …”
In the meantime, Holdren offered five points of advice for the hundreds of scientists assembled:
Number 1: Don’t be discouraged or intimidated.
Two: Keep doing your science … don’t change what you do or how you think about what you do or its importance.
Three: Besides your own science, become more broadly informed about science and scientific issues.
Four: Tithe at least 10 percent of your time to public service … including activism.
And last: We as a community need to think carefully about how to focus and utilize our activities to try to insure the continuation, momentum, and the integrity of science in this new era.
Scientists are becoming more politically engaged in the Trump era, and it shows here at AAAS. Later in the day, Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes got a standing ovation after speaking on how scientists can — and should — be “sentinels” for the public, and shouldn’t fear a loss of credibility for getting more politically engaged.
Soon, Congress and the president will be making another set of decisions that are worrying for scientists — the 2018 fiscal year budget. Republicans want to cut taxes while possibly expanding defense and infrastructure spending. That is costly, and it may mean cutting back on discretionary spending, including scientific research and development.
Science funding often enjoys bipartisan consensus. But in this unsure era, researchers are extra anxious to make their voices heard.
…..thanks and you’re welcome VOX….
8 bits of plastic you can quit right now
The Earth can’t digest plastic. Plastic things are bought and used and that’s it – the Earth is burdened further. This issue has reached critical point. And we have to act. All of us. Because we are the issue. I know some of us get flummoxed by the data.
Feel free to share this YouTube video from Jeff Bridges on behalf of the Plastic Pollution Coalition
Earth can’t digest plastic. Once it exists, it’s never going to be gone. Every bit of plastic that’s ever been made still exists on the planet. As time goes by plastic will separate into smaller and smaller pieces, but never completely biodegrades. And so….
Plastic in the ocean now outnumbers sea life six to one.
All (yes, all) sea turtle species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.
One million sea birds are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.
Plastic chemicals, like BPA, are absorbed by the body. They disrupt hormones and your endocrine system. I’ve written on this before. It’s a big issue. Especially if you have autoimmune disease.
Aside from the BPA issue, which most people are aware of, plastic also contains DDT and PCB — two extremely toxic chemicals. The health effects of DDT include cancer, male infertility, miscarriages and low birth weight, developmental delay, nervous system and liver damage. PCBs also contribute to cancer and cause disorders of the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems.
So. Eight plastic habits to Change. Now.
1. Plastic cutlery. Totally wrong. It kills me that often health food shops with eco ethos’ are the worst for not supplying reusable stuff. This ain’t fringe thinking any more. France has just banned plastic cutlery, cups and plates. (So you know, 150 single-use cups are thrown away every second in France.) They’re aiming to cut landfill waste in half by 2025 and reduce greenhouse emissions 40 per cent by 2030.
Do this: Carry a splade in your purse/bag* (a spoon, fork and blade in one). Or a “spork” – spoon and fork combo – one at each end – available from reChusable.com.
2. Straws. Don’t use one! 90 per cent of the debris found on Sydney beaches is plastic water bottles and straws. These pieces can get so tiny that they are then ingested by marine life. Bigger marine life comes along and gobbles up the prey that has just swallowed a chunk of plastic, and so it makes its way up the food chain.
Do this: Sip your drink, only use if there are biodegradable ones available at your cafe or invest in a stainless steel reusable one. And leave in your bag*.
This stack of straws gathered during a 20-minute snorkel off Manly, Australia
3. Bottled water. In the US, 1500 plastic water bottles are consumed every second. Every SECOND. The plastic contains BPA and phthalates, both of which have a huge negative impact on our bodies. They also take 25 per cent of their volume in oil to make each bottle. That’s a lot of fossil fuels.
Do this: Drink from a tap. Invest in a Soda Stream. Take a reusable bottle with you in your bag* and fill up at public water fountains, at cafes or at work.
4. Takeaway coffee cups. The cups are lined with plastic which is not biodegradable. This plastic sticks around long enough to out-live us. Disposable does not mean recyclable. I’ve ranted about takeaway coffee cups before.
And if you’re wondering how dangerous the BPA in the lids is for you, I’ve ranted about that, too.
In Australia, takeaway coffee cups are the second biggest contributor to waste after plastic bottles. That’s because we use approximately 1 billion disposable coffee cups a year.
Do this: Use a JOCO Cup instead. We use these at our IQS office. And you can…keep one in your bag*.
5. Plastic toothbrushes. Yep, your plastic toothbrush needs to go. Most toothbrushes are made with nylon bristles, a metal staple to hold the bristles in place and the plastic handle. All need to be separated before being “processed” for recycling. And no, the plastic is not recyclable. (It’s a softer plastic, so these are usually turned into other products…but the plastic never goes away…)
Do this: Use a bamboo toothbrush.
6. Plastic shopping bags. Australians use more than 10 million new plastic shopping bags every day. These bags are now banned in South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT.
Do this: Keep reusable bags in your car. I keep an I Quit Sugar shopping bag (softened from much use) rolled up at the bottom of my main, daily bag.
7. Take away containers. Although not in circulation at the level of plastic water bottles, plastic food containers need to go, too. They contain chemicals that affect our bodies, and they also all end up in landfill. (And the ocean.)
Do this: cover dishes with a plate (stop using plastic wrap, too!). Use, and re-use, your Ziplock bags.
8. Plastic wrapped toilet paper. We’re buying paper…wrapped in plastic? Again, an easy fix.
Do this: Buy toilet paper that’s wrapped in paper. Preferably buy recycled. We do. Our office uses Who Gives a Crap. They tick all the right boxes and they donate a percentage of their profits to charity.
*If you find yourself thinking it’s ridiculous of me to suggest you carry such things in your bag, think about the fact you might already carry a water bottle already anyway, you’re fine to carry your phone, a spare jumper, etc. …
It’s really just about getting over yourself and adjusting.
H.R. McMaster, an active-duty Army general, will be President Donald Trump’s next national security adviser, according to an announcement on Monday afternoon. McMaster isn’t exactly a household name, but he’s well-known among observers of the US military — and has a sterling reputation as a strategist, leader, and intellectual.
McMaster’s predecessor, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, had a (seemingly justified) reputation for being a loose cannon attracted to fringe political ideas. McMaster is the opposite — a careful scholar and successful general who’s well-regarded in the Washington foreign policy establishment.
That’s why even some Trump critics, like former Obama Defense Department official Andrew Exum, are praising the pick.
“He is one of the most talented men I know,” Exum tweeted. “A great officer and thinker. Huge upgrade. “
In theory, McMaster is a good person to do the core job of the national security adviser: help Trump sort through information and develop his policies accordingly. In practice, it’s far from clear how much influence McMaster will actually have over a president who seems deeply skeptical of people outside his immediate circle and information that troubles his basic worldview.
McMaster’s public record for the past 25 years has been pretty striking.
During the Gulf War, he served as a captain of an armored cavalry troop (a mixed group of tanks and other fighting vehicles). During the invasion, McMaster’s Eagle Troop ran into an elite group of Saddam’s tanks hidden by a sandstorm — and routed them without suffering a single casualty.
After the war, McMaster enrolled in a history PhD program at the University of North Carolina, something ambitious military officers do now with relative frequency. In 1997, he published his dissertation — on the US military’s role in helping begin the Vietnam War. In the book, McMaster argues that the incompetence of and internal divisions among the country’s leading officers, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, allowed President Johnson and his civilian advisers to get trapped in an unwinnable war.
The book was well-reviewed; George Washington University Ronald Spector, writing for the New York Times, called it “a comprehensive, balanced and relentless exploration of the specific role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” The book helped win McMaster a reputation as both a capable soldier and a talented scholar.
In 2005, then-Col. McMaster deployed to Iraq, tasked with pacifying the insurgent-ridden city of Tal Afar. Unlike many generals at the time, McMaster emphasized Arabic language skills and interfacing with Iraqi civilians, on the theory that insurgents can’t survive without a friendly population to hide in. Foreign Policy’s Tom Ricks recalls McMaster’s time in Iraq thusly:
I remember him telling his soldiers that understanding counterinsurgency really wasn’t hard: “Every time you disrespect an Iraqi, you’re working for the enemy.” They even had “Customer Satisfaction Forms” that detainees were asked to fill out upon release: Were you treated well? How was the food? What could we do better?
McMaster’s approach, as Ricks recalled, worked — he had established control over the city, with cooperation from local authorities, by the end of the year.
Despite this relatively impressive record, though, McMaster reportedly had some trouble climbing to the higher ranks of the US military, which his admirers attribute his willingness to speak his mind.
Regardless, he managed to secure an important post focusing on strategic doctrine in 2014, directing the Army’s Futures Center, where he’s served ever since. That year, Time magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world.
If Trump was looking for a military officer to advise him, it’s hard to think of one that’s more qualified on paper.
The national security adviser is an exceptionally important post. The NSA’s key job is to help the president sort through the intelligence and policy ideas coming from various government agencies, essentially deciding what the boss sees and helping him interpret it.
Clearly, McMaster is a smart man who’s knowledgeable about the world. But this job depends, crucially, on having the president’s trust and his ear. If Trump doesn’t trust McMaster’s assessments, or if he gets into a lot of conflicts with other key Trump advisers, then he’ll have a hard time wielding a lot of influence over the president.
One of the key first issues is staffing. Retired Vice Adm. Bob Harward, Trump’s first pick for the job, turned it down — ostensibly for family reasons. But CBS News reported that there was another factor:
Two sources close to the situation confirm Harward demanded his own team, and the White House resisted. Specifically, Mr. Trump told Deputy National Security Adviser K. T. McFarland that she could retain her post, even after the ouster of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Harward refused to keep McFarland as his deputy, and after a day of negotiations over this and other staffing matters, Harward declined to serve as Flynn’s replacement.
It’s not surprising that Harward wouldn’t want McFarland, a Fox News personality who hadn’t been in government for two decades, as his top deputy. McMaster likely wouldn’t either — so her fate will be a clear sign as to how much influence McMaster has over the president.
“To do the job right, McMaster needs to bring in his own people,” Ricks writes. “And it remains unclear if he can get that.”
Even if McMaster gets past the staffing hurdle, he’ll still have to deal with people on the political side — most notably senior strategist Steve Bannon — many of whom share a radical anti-Islam view very much at odds with McMaster’s approach to fighting terrorism (at least if his record in Iraq is anything to go by).
The bottom line, then, is that intelligence and military skill are not necessarily the key qualities that will allow McMaster to succeed in his new role. He’ll need to figure out some way to function inside a deeply dysfunctional and divided administration. It’s not clear if anyone knows the right way to do that.
….thanks and you’re welcome to VOX…….
ps…… men like McMasters usually protect their integrity with gusto……..let’s see how long it takes the Stump to compromise his……………..w
….acquiring knowledge may seem like a daunting task. There is so much to know and time is precious. Luckily, we don’t have to master everything.
To get the biggest bang for our buck we can study the big ideas from the big disciplines: physics, biology, psychology, philosophy, literature, sociology, history, and a few others. We call these big ideas mental models.
Our aim is not to remember facts and try to repeat them when asked, the way you studied for your high school history exams. We’re going to try and hang these ideas on a lattice work of mental models, with vivid examples in our head to help us remember and apply them.
The lattice work of mental models puts them in a useable form to analyze awide variety of situations and enables us to make better decisions.
And when big ideas from multiple disciplines all point towards the same conclusion, we can begin to conclude that we’ve hit on an important truth.
The idea for building such a lattice work comes from Charlie Munger, Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the finest cross-disciplinary thinkers in the world.
Well, the first rule is that….. you can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts…. and try and bang ’em back. If the facts don’t hang together on a lattice work of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form.
You’ve got to have models in your head. And you’ve got to array your experience both vicarious and direct on this lattice work of models. You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You’ve got to hang experience on a lattice work of models in your head.
What are the models? Well, the first rule is that you’ve got to have multiple models because if you just have one or two that you’re using, the nature of human psychology is such that you’ll torture reality so that it fits your models, or at least you’ll think it does…
It’s like the old saying, “To the man with only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” And of course, that’s the way the chiropractor goes about practicing medicine. But that’s a perfectly disastrous way to think and a perfectly disastrous way to operate in the world. So you’ve got to have multiple models.
And the models have to come from multiple disciplines because all the wisdom of the world is not to be found in one little academic department. That’s why poetry professors, by and large, are so unwise in a worldly sense. They don’t have enough models in their heads. So you’ve got to have models across a fair array of disciplines.
You may say, “My God, this is already getting way too tough.” But, fortunately, it isn’t that tough because 80 or 90 important models will carry about 90% of the freight in making you a worldly wise person. And, of those, only a mere handful really carry very heavy freight.(1)
John T. Reed, author of Succeeding offers an important additional insight:
When you first start to study a field, it seems like you have to memorize a zillion things. You don’t. What you need is to identify the core principles – generally three to twelve of them – that govern the field. The million things you thought you had to memorize are simply various combinations of the core principles.
Here is what happens when you rely on one (powerful) mental model to solve everything.
Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail does something that only the best books do—uncovers a phenomenon that’s undeniably going on and makes clear sense of it. Anderson, the Wired editor-in-chief who first wrote about the Long Tail concept in 2004, had two moments of genius: He visualized the demand for certain products as a “power curve,” and he came up with a catchy phrase to go with his observation. Like most good ideas, the Long Tail attaches to your mind and gets stuck there. Everything you take in—cult blogs, alternative music, festival films—starts looking like the Long Tail in action. But that’s also the problem. The Long Tail theory is so catchy it can overgrow its useful boundaries. Unfortunately, Anderson’s book exacerbates this problem. When you put it down, there’s one question you won’t be able to answer: When, exactly, doesn’t the Long Tail matter?
This insight goes only so far, but like many business books, The Long Tail commits the sin of overreaching. The tagline on the book’s cover reads, “Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More,” which is certainly wrong or at least exaggerated. Inside we learn about “the Long Tail of Everything.” Anderson’s book, unlike his original Wired article, threatens to turn a great theory of inventory economics into a bad theory of life and the universe. He writes that “there are now Long Tail markets practically everywhere you look,” calling offshoring the “Long Tail of labor,” and online universities “the Long Tail of education.” He quotes approvingly an analysis that claims, improbably, that there’s a “Long Tail of national security” in which al-Qaida is a “supercharged niche supplier.” At times, the Long Tail becomes the proverbial theory hammer looking for nails to pound.
What the book doesn’t get at is the relationship between these standards-driven industries where the Long Tail doesn’t matter, and the content industries where it does. There aren’t Long Tails everywhere.
The truth is that the good ideas are just as dangerous as the bad ones. Warren Buffett’s mentor, Ben Graham, used to put it as such:
You can get in way more trouble with a good idea than a bad idea, because you forget that the good idea has limits.
The best antidote to this sort of overreaching is to add more colors to your mental palette; to expand your repertoire of ideas, make them vivid and available, and watch your mind grow.
You’ll know you’re on to something when the ideas start to compete with one another. At first, this is mildly uncomfortable. One idea says X and the other idea says the reverse of X: How do I decide which is right?
This process of letting the models compete and fight for superiority and greater fundamentalness is called thinking! It’s a little like learning to walk or ride a bike; at first you can’t believe all that you’re supposed to do at once, but eventually you wonder how you ever got along without it. As Charlie likes to say, going back to any other method would feel like cutting off your hands.
Good luck, and let’s explore the models.
Biases emanating from the Representativeness Heuristic
– Bias from insensitivity to base rates
– Bias from insensitivity to sample size
– Misconceptions of chance
– Regression to the mean
– Bias from conjunction fallacy
– Bias from incentives and reinforcement
– Bias from self-interest
– Bias from association
– Bias from liking/loving
– Bias from disliking/hating
– Commitment and Consistency Bias
– Bias from excessive fairness
– Bias from envy and jealousy
– Reciprocation bias
– Over-influence from authority
– Deprival Super-Reaction Bias
– Bias from contrast
– Bias from stress-influence
– Bias from emotional arousal
– Bias from physical or psychological pain
– Fundamental Attribution Error
– Bias from the status quo
– Do something tendency
– Do nothing tendency
– Over-influence from precision/models
– Uncertainty avoidance
– Not invented here bias
– Short-term bias
– Tendency to avoid extremes
– Man with a Hammer Tendency
– Bias from social proof
– Over-influence from framing effects
– Price Sensitivity
– Improving Returns
– Porters 5 Forces
– Decision Trees
– Diminishing Returns
– Double Entry Accounting
– Complex adaptive systems
– Systems Thinking
– Diminishing Utility
– Supply and Demand
– Economies of Scale
– Opportunity Cost
– Marginal Cost
– Comparative Advantage
– Price Discrimination
– Positive and Negative Externalities
– Sunk Costs
– Moral Hazard
– Game Theory
– Prisoners’ Dilemma
– Tragedy of the Commons
– Time value of Money
– Bayes Theorem
– Power Law
– Law of large numbers
– Probability Theory
– Standard Deviation and normal distribution
– Regression to the mean
– Multiplicative Systems
– Outliers and self fulfilling prophecy
– Correlation versus Causation
– Mean, Median, Mode
– Natural Selection
– Asymmetric Information
– Occam’s Razor
– Deduction and Induction
– Basic Decision Making Process
– Scientific Method
– Process versus Outcome
– And then what?
– The Agency Problem
– 7 Deadly Sins
– Network Effect
– Gresham’s Law
– The Red Queen Effect
Remember, the above list is always subject to growing and changing. We’re always trying to find better ways to organize our knowledge.
1. Charlie Munger, Poor Charlie’s Almanack
2. John T. Reed, Succeeding
3. Alice Schroeder, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
The only good thing about pathological liars is that regardless what they say, one can rest assured that they are lying; no matter how serious the subject of their mendacity or how high the probability their lie will be exposed. Throughout the presidential campaign, no matter how many demands from a wide range of interested parties for Donald Trump to release his tax returns, Trump lied and said that it was impossible because the Internal Revenue Service prohibited him from doing so; some mendacious nonsense about an audit.
As expected, when the IRS completed its audit, Trump still wouldn’t release his taxes because he claimed that he is the president and nobody cares about seeing them or what he is almost certainly hiding.
Obviously, with several petitions floating around, and hundreds-of-thousands of comments on the White House website demanding to see Trump’s tax returns, it did not go unnoticed that Trump has no intention of ever releasing anything for scrutiny. It seemed that there was no recourse for relief until a Democratic House Representative decided to invoke an obscure 1924 tax code law to force the issue and get Trump’s dirty laundry and gross conflicts of interest out in the open; hopefully to kick the bloviate out of the White House.
New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and hopes Republicans will acquiesce to his appeal to use a 1924 tax law allowing Congress to examine any Americans’ tax returns for the purpose of determining whether conflicts of interest exist.
Mr. Pascrell sent a letter to Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), asking him to order the Treasury Department to provide ten years’ worth of Trump’s tax returns to the committee. After the committee is finished reviewing the documents, they can be released to the full House and by extension the American public. In his letter to the committee chairman, Representative Pascrell said “foreign governments are paying rents, licensing fees, and issuing permits for Trump Organization projects, all of which could be used to influence the president.”
Representative Pascrell is not going to go away quietly, and he shouldn’t. He did say, “If I get a ‘no’ answer on this, I’ll be very honest with you: If these guys think I’m walking away from this, they’re absolutely nuts. The calls we’re getting, the calls other congressmen are getting, it’s unbelievable, we never expected this.” Maybe that is true, but Pascrell and “other congress-people” certainly should have expected a flood of calls.
Mr. Pascrell is right, of course, that they have been getting “calls” about the Trump. Trump and his staff are liars when they say the people could not care less about Trump’s corruption; an overwhelming majority of the people demand that Trump’s tax returns are released.
According to a Washington Post–ABC poll, and a separate Pew Research poll, at least two-thirds of the population want Trump to make his tax returns available for public review. Of course there is no legal requirement for presidents to release their tax returns, but every president since Richard Nixon has done so voluntarily; Nixon eventually released his under pressure from the same congressional mechanism using the 1924 tax code law that Mr. Pascrell is seeking relief from.
It will be curious to watch Republicans justify refusing to use the 1924 tax code law, especially when the GOP-dominated Ways and Means Committee made use of the law barely two years ago when a Democrat was in the White House. Republicans had no issue releasing confidential tax information to the public during its 2015 investigation into the Daryl Issa-created phony “scandal” involving the Internal Revenue Service’s handling of applications for nonprofit status. The Republicans only had access to that “confidential tax information” after they “ordered” the Treasury Department to hand over tax documents; precisely what Pascrell is asking of Republicans now when it really matters.
Mr. Pascrell said, “This isn’t for the Democrats or the Republicans, and it’s not to embarrass anybody. This is to make sure the American people know the facts, and if there are conflicts, they need to be resolved.”
It is those “pesky facts” and “certainty of conflicts” that are the force behind Trump’s refusal to release his returns and why he unilaterally declared the issue moot and settled with his election victory; or as his daughter’s clothing line spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway said, “He’s not going to release his tax returns. We litigated this all through the election.”
Actually, nothing was litigated; Donald Trump lied and said he was barred from releasing his returns while under an audit, something the IRS debunked. Now his lie has been exposed as a certified “whopper” when even after the IRS audit was officially over, Trump said he wasn’t releasing anything because according to his lie, “The only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, okay? They’re the only ones. I won; I mean, I became president. No, I don’t think they care at all. I think you care.”
Remember, prior to the election about 60 percent of the people wanted to see the returns and were bothered that Trump refused to be transparent, and that percentage has only grown since then; Trump is a liar and he will have to be forced, by Republicans, to hand over the documents.
It is a sad fact of life that Republicans have nothing to gain by ordering Trump (he oversees the IRS) to expose his corruption and conflicts of interests. As terrified as he is of being caught for conflict of interest, it is the corruption, hidden offshore accounts, and connections to Russia that he does not want the people to see. Trump is not going to release his tax documents and Republicans will not force his hand because they are as corrupt as he is. Besides, they have no desire to anger their rubber-stamp in the Oval Office while they still have a government to destroy, jobs to kill, and Americans to harm.
The above article contains a report and commentary by R Muse
…..thanks and you’re welcome to R Muse and Politicus usa………