Newsworthy Items That Have Slipped Through the Cracks: We’re Doomed

I don’t mean to panic anyone, but the US breached the debt ceiling on March 16th and the current extension on the Fiscal Year 2017 continuing budget resolution runs out on April 28th. Given the dysfunction within the majority caucuses in the House and the Senate, the fact that the new Administration’s skinny budget has been declared DOA upon its arrival in Congress, and the fact that NO ONE ANYWHERE – INCLUDING THE WHITE HOUSE, CONGRESS, MOST OF THE NEWS MEDIA, AND APPARENTLY MOST AMERICANS!!!!!!! – seems to be paying any attention or talking about this, perhaps we should be just a wee bit concerned.

Have a nice evening!



Today in Domestic International Terrorism and Stochastic Violence: They Have Caught the Person Making the Bomb Threats

The AP is reporting that Israeli law enforcement has caught the person who has been calling bomb threats into Jewish Community Centers, synagogues, and Jewish American civic organizations throughout the US.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police on Thursday arrested a 19-year-old Israeli Jewish man as the primary suspect in a string of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers and other institutions in the U.S., marking a potential breakthrough in the case.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld described the suspect as a hacker, but said his motives were still unclear. Israeli media identified him as an American-Israeli dual citizen and said he had been found unfit for compulsory service in the Israeli military.

“He’s the guy who was behind the JCC threats,” Rosenfeld said, referring to the dozens of anonymous threats phoned in to Jewish community centers in the U.S. over the past two months.

The FBI, which had taken part in the investigation, confirmed the arrest but had no other comment.

Israeli police described the local man as the primary suspect in the wave of threats.

Israeli police said the suspect made dozens of calls claiming to have placed bombs in public places and private companies, causing panic and “significant economic damage,” and disrupting public order, including by the hurried evacuations of a number of public venues around the world. The man is suspected of placing threatening phone calls to Australia, New Zealand and also within Israel.

Rosenfeld said the man, from the south of Israel, used advanced technologies to mask the origin of his calls and communications to synagogues, community buildings and public venues. He said police searched his house Thursday morning and discovered antennas and satellite equipment.

“He didn’t use regular phone lines. He used different computer systems so he couldn’t be backtracked,” Rosenfeld said.

While it is unclear what the motive is at this time, “found unfit for compulsory service in the Israeli military” does not exactly inspire confidence in the suspects mental health. Back in February I wrote:

We’ve got some knucklehead who gets his gratification calling these in and seeing the news coverage. He may or may not be a hard core anti-Semite, but he’s basically in it for ego gratification. And based on decades of criminological research into deviance, delinquency, and offending, it is highly likely it is a he. So step up your game ladies! He may or may not even be in the US, given VOIP technology. And he may never intend to do anything but make these calls.

I think this is what we have with this suspect. Whether it is untreated mental health issues or some other driver, he pretty much fits. And the untreated mental health issues would explain a Jewish Israeli-American calling in threats to Jewish American organizations. The problem, however, comes in now that this genius has let the cat out of the bag. As I also wrote in that same post back in February:

Or, also even worse, he never intends to escalate beyond calling in the threats, but someone else who does want to do real, physical damage to property and harm to people does. This individual or individuals waits until the coverage begins to drop off because the calls are every week or every other week like clockwork and the local news decides it needs to cover something more important. And then this person that wants to cause real harm and actually hurt people decides its time to strike because complacency has set in and some synagogue or JCC isn’t going to take the threat as seriously.

And I fully expect that this pattern will at some point be fully extended to mosques and Hispanic and Asian churches, as well as Sikh temples. I know that the Hispanic and Asian churches in my area have seen an increase in both vandalism and threats, just as the synagogues and mosques have, because they are viewed as immigrant places (of worship) and therefore acceptable targets despite being churches.

The perpetrator of the calls has been caught, but it remains to be seen what he has ultimately wrought.

Stay frosty!



An Assassination in Ukraine: The Unmasking of the Maskirovka has Removed the Need for Subtlety

Towards the end of 2016 a member of Russia’s parliament and his wife defected from Russia to Ukraine. Denis Voronenkov and his wife Maria Masakova sought asylum and he agreed to assist in the Ukrainian investigation into Victor Yanukovych,

KIEV—Only a few months ago Denis Voronenkov and Maria Maksakova were two of the brightest stars in Moscow’s political firmament, trying to improve the system from inside, but very much a part of it. They rode in luxurious cars, dined with the Kremlin’s elite at expensive restaurants, vacationed in Paris and Cannes. Both were members of the Russian parliament, the Duma. He was a colonel in the Russian military—a veteran of the military prosecutor’s office—as well. She, a classic Russian beauty, was a diva at the Mariinsky (Kirov) opera. The couple lived the good life in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But then the system chewed them up and spat them out.

Now they are whistleblowers—defectors hunted by Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, who have found asylum in Ukraine. And they say they are ready to open up in court about the inner workings of the Putin establishment.

“Americans should realize that Putin and his guys are convinced that he spins the planet with his feet,” like a soccer ball, Voronenkov told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview. “The FSB cyber forces are quite powerful globally. Now they do not just listen to you (they listened and recorded all my phone calls for eight years). They also attack other states.”

Col. Voronenkov said he and his wife had no choice but to flee Russia late last year to “defeat the designs of the FSB,” which had begun to investigate them on a number of alleged criminal charges related to a contentious real estate deal. A favorite strategy for silencing suspected troublemakers is to charge them with corruption in a system rife with it.

Voronenkov was assassinated early today in Kiev.

The Independent reports that:

A former Russian MP has been shot and killed in the centre of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, in what the Ukrainian president described as an “act of state terrorism” by Russia.

Denis Voronenkov, who testified to Ukrainian investigators and criticsed Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea, was shot dead by an unidentified gunman near the entrance of an upscale hotel.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the killing “clearly shows the handwriting of Russian special services shown repeatedly in various European capitals in the past.”

In a statement released by his spokesman, Svyatoslav Tsegolko, Mr Poroshenko described the victim as a key witness who gave testimony about “Russian aggression” to the Ukrainian authorities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, dismissed the claim of Russian involvement in the killing as “absurd” in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova went further, saying the “killer regime” in Kiev “will do its best to make sure that no one will ever know the truth about what happened.”

Another former MP and Kremlin critic living in Kiev said Mr. Voronenkov was killed while heading to meet with him.

Mr Voronenkov was “an investigator who was deadly dangerous for the [Russian] security agencies,” Mr Ponomaryov wrote on Facebook, according to a translation from The Moscow Times.

Not subtle at all.

We also know more about the Russian attorney thrown from his building:

And Russia’s covert Little Green Men and overt actions involving Crimea and the ongoing Russian low intensity war with Ukraine continues apace.



We Are at War. It is High Time That Our Leaders Begin Acting Like It!

Last July, when the hacking into the DNC became public knowledge, I wrote that we are at Cyber War. That what had happened was an act of war, though confined to the cyber domain. Today’s events are just the latest reinforcing example that we are at war, even if it is not formally declared. Russia has long believed that they were, at least, in a new cold war with the US and the West. Beyond that, however, is that Andrey Krutskikh, a senior advisor to Vladimir Putin, described the conflict this way:

According to notes of Krutskikh’s speech, he told his Russian audience: “You think we are living in 2016. No, we are living in 1948. And do you know why? Because in 1949, the Soviet Union had its first atomic bomb test. And if until that moment, the Soviet Union was trying to reach agreement with [President Harry] Truman to ban nuclear weapons, and the Americans were not taking us seriously, in 1949 everything changed and they started talking to us on an equal footing.”

Krutskikh continued, “I’m warning you: We are at the verge of having ‘something’ in the information arena, which will allow us to talk to the Americans as equals.”

Putin’s cyber adviser stressed to the Moscow audience the importance for Russia of having a strong hand in this new domain. If Russia is weak, he explained, “it must behave hypocritically and search for compromises. But once it becomes strong, it will dictate to the Western partners [the United States and its allies] from the position of power.”

Krutskikh’s comments may have been a precursor of a new doctrine for information operations announced publicly by the Kremlin in December. The senior administration official described the Russian strategy: “They think of information space as a domain of warfare. In the U.S, we tend to have a binary view of conflict — we’re at peace or at war. The Russian doctrine is more of a continuum. You can be at different levels of conflict, along a sliding scale.”

What does all this have to do with the events of today? It is part of the necessary prologue to be able to answer John’s question about Congressman Nunes. It’s not that Bannon has anything on Nunes. It is that Nunes’s <strike>business partner is tied</strike> is connected to Putin:

And that may, perhaps, explain why this morning Congressman Nunes disclosed, without authorization, classified information pertaining to US SIGINT collection. Congressman Nunes does not have declassification authority in regard to that information. He then went and briefed the President on what he had just leaked because he thought the President needed to know it. This is curious for two reasons. 1) This is not the job of a Congressman who is chairing a committee that oversees executive branch agencies and activities. 2) The President, as the President, has the ability to know anything he wants to know that is being done, or has been done, by the US Intelligence Community. That he did not seem to know this, that he does not seem to have been briefed on it, means that he and his subordinates either couldn’t be bothered knowing or, because of the counterintelligence investigation – its scope and who may be its targets – this information had been compartmented from the President to protect sources and methods. If it is the former, it shows how inept the President’s advisors and staff are. If it is the latter then Congressman Nunes has dug his hole even deeper. Interfering with and obstructing a Federal counterintelligence investigation is not something that the FBI looks kindly upon.

Moreover, the real takeaway for today is why the President and so many of his people were in ongoing contact with Russians and other foreign targets of both routine and specifically targeted US SIGINT collection.

Before anyone asks me what happens now? The answer is I do not know. I know what should happen both overtly and covertly. Overtly Congressman Nunes should be removed from his chairmanship and the committee. Covertly he should have his access to classified material cut off and the RNC and the California GOP should be firmly explaining to him why he is not standing for reelection in 2018. But the truthful answer is we have to wait and see.

Congressman Schiff is trying to prevent his committee from being blown up by the committee chair. A man who is not particularly smart and who has a Russian <strike>partner</strike> distributor connected to Putin. Here too, like so many times that I’ve remarked on this stuff, I can once again place a key player in all of this within <strike>no more than two</strike> three links to Putin or those in his orbit. Director Comey will now become very, very circumspect with what he does and does not brief the Congressional Gang of Eight because key members, Congressman Nunes specifically, cannot be trusted with any sensitive information. Congress’s oversight of the Intelligence Community is now compromised.

Additionally, Congressman Schiff has stated that he has seen hard of evidence of collusion between the President’s team and the Russians. It is unclear if he is referring to the Trump Organization, Trump-Pence Campaign, Trump Transition, the current Trump Administration, or some combination of them.

As I wrote last June in my post on cyberwar, Russia has declared that they are in a state of war with the US. They are acting like it. The US has key leaders from one of its two political parties (the GOP), as well as from one of its fringe, gadfly, spoiler parties (the Greens) who are continually demonstrating that they are providing aid and comfort to the enemy. As I’ve written before, we are fully in a Constitutional crisis and have been for months. We are at war and have been for well over a year. The Republic is in peril. It is far past time for our leaders to begin acting like it!



Open Thread: An Unprecedented Drain on the National Coffers

Nearly half of the additional money, $26.8 million, would pay to protect President Trump’s family and private home in New York’s Trump Tower, the documents show, while $33 million would be spent on travel costs incurred by “the president, vice president and other visiting heads of state.”

The documents, part of the Secret Service’s request for the fiscal 2018 budget, reflect the costly surprise facing Secret Service agents tasked with guarding the president’s large and far-flung family, accommodating their ambitious travel schedules and fortifying the three-floor Manhattan penthouse where first lady Melania Trump and her son, Barron, live…

The budget requests reflect a potentially awkward contrast between Trump’s efforts to cut federal spending in many areas and the escalating costs of his freewheeling travel itinerary. Trump jetted to Mar-a-Lago on Friday for his fifth post-inauguration weekend trip, one day after the White House released a federal budget proposing deep cuts to many government programs.

Former agents said the requests indicate that the agency had to adapt to offer full protection for a president and first family who appear to have placed few limits on their personal travel and living arrangements….

Some of the public funding could potentially become revenue for Trump’s private company, the Trump Organization, which owns the Trump Tower that agents must now protect. The Defense Department and Secret Service have sought to rent space in Trump Tower but have not said how much space they’re interested in, or at what cost. Neither the Secret Service nor the Trump Organization have disclosed how much public money, if any, is being spent toward Trump Tower space or other costs…

The Secret Service’s protection costs are only a fraction of the total public spending devoted to safeguarding Trump properties. New York police spent roughly $24 million toward security costs at Trump Tower between the election and inauguration, according to police figures provided to The Post.

At Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach County officials say their sheriff’s office has spent more than $1.5 million toward overtime for deputies guarding the exclusive resort Trump has taken to calling “the southern White House” and “winter White House.”

County officials have proposed levying a special fee on the resort, saying they would have to otherwise raise taxes on local residents to help cover its high security costs. The Coast Guard has also paid to provide round-the-clock patrols of the resort’s two coastlines, including through the use of a gun-mounted response boat that, according to agency budget documents, costs $1,500 an hour…

SO MUCH FOR FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY, REPUBS!



Boizhe Moi…

I got nothing.

Here’s the clip from C-SPAN.

From Time (autoplay clip at the link):

“Great president. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican,” Trump said while addressing attendees at the National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner. “Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that.”

Trump then said Republicans need to spread the word that Lincoln was a Republican, appearing to be unaware of the fact that the GOP is commonly referred to as the “party of Lincoln.”

“Let’s take an ad, let’s use one of those PACs,” he said.

3:25 to 3:29 mark sums it up nicely:



Wednesday Morning Open Thread: “Just Not FUN Anymore, Paulie Boy!”

Okay, I’m a little obsessed right now. Because I’m hoping for the political equivalent of a Trump-Ryan murder-suicide pact, and I don’t even care which partner goes first.

Apart from keeping one eye on the perpetrators at all times, what’s on the agenda for the day?
.