03/20/18

Citigroup Pentagon Payment Portal 1.3 Million Weekend Hack Attempts

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

There are 47 pages of regulations for Department of Defense personnel using Citigroup credit cards while traveling.

Pentagon confirms hack attempt against Defense Department credit card holders

  • The Pentagon on Thursday confirmed that there was a hacking attempt against an online financial services portal that Citigroup manages for the Defense Department.
  • Citigroup had told CNBC that a “malicious actor” attempted to gain access to several Citi credit card accounts tied to the Department of Defense.
  • The attack, which included 1.3 million attempts, occurred over this past weekend.

The Pentagon on Thursday confirmed that there was a hacking attempt this past weekend against an online financial services portal that Citigroup manages for Defense Department credit card holders.

The confirmation comes a day after Citigroup told CNBC that a “malicious actor” attempted to gain access to information for Pentagon-linked credit card accounts.

The bank had responded to CNBC’s inquiry regarding an attempted hack this past weekend. The Pentagon, citing information from Citigroup, confirmed to CNBC on Thursday that there was an attack over the weekend of March 10.

The bank told the Defense Department that the attack came from a computer system that was randomly guessing cardholder account usernames and passwords.

The program hit Citigroup’s Pentagon online account application more than 1.3 million times. The hackers did successfully guess 318 Pentagon cardholders’ usernames and passwords, but they did not get past a secondary layer of account authentication.

“No data compromise occurred,” Citi told the Pentagon.

Citi provides financial services for the Government Travel Charge Card, or GTCC, which is used by Department of Defense personnel to pay for authorized expenses when on official travel.

CitiManager is the online portal used by the Defense Department to view statements online, make payments and confirm account balances.

The Pentagon’s Defense Travel Management Office oversees the processing of the GTCC.

*** Back in 2016, there was a hacker contest held by the Pentagon under Secretary Ash Carter….guess they missed that payment portal vulnerability possibility.

When the Pentagon announced the “Hack the Pentagon” event back in March, many wondered what kinds of vulnerabilities hackers would find when checking government websites for bugs. Now we know.

According to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, more than 250 participants out of the 1,400 submitted at least one vulnerability report, with 138 of those vulnerabilities determined to be “legitimate, unique and eligible for a bounty,” he said. The bounties ranged per person from $100 to around $15,000 if someone submitted multiple bugs.

The pilot program, which ran from April 18 to May 12, cost about $150,000, with around half of that going to participants. The results were released on Friday, according to the Department of Defense’s website.

“Hack the Pentagon” was deemed a cost-effective way to scour five of the US defense departments’ websites (defense.gov, dodlive.mil, dvidshub.net, myafn.net and dimoc.mil, according to a DoD spokesman) for security bugs. Instead of going to outside security firms, which would’ve cost upwards of $1 million, the government instead recruited amateur hackers to do it for much less, some who were only in high school.

In addition to reporting on the number of bugs, Carter also said that the government has worked with HackerOne, a bug bounty platform, to fix the vulnerabilities and that the department has “built stronger bridges to innovative citizens who want to make a difference to our defense mission.” Carter wants the “bug bounty” program to extend to other areas of the government and wants to ensure that hackers and researchers can report bugs without a dedicated program.

“When it comes to information and technology, the defense establishment usually relies on closed systems,” he said. “But the more friendly eyes we have on some of our systems and websites, the more gaps we can find, the more vulnerabilities we can fix, and the greater security we can provide to our warfighters.”

Many websites already have bug bounty programs in place, but it was the first time the federal government had come up with such a program. It’s good experience for young hackers and security fiends who want to try and hack a government agency, although that’s a small amount of money for their time.

03/20/18

Genocide of White Farmers in S. Africa

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

A White Farmer Is Killed Every Five Days in South Africa and Authorities Do Nothing about It, Activists Say

Activists say South African authorities are tacitly approving attacks on the country’s white farmers, with one being murdered every five days, and the police turning a blind eye to the violence.

The white nationalist lobbying group AfriForum says that when lawmakers passed a motion last month which could see land being seized from farmers without compensation, it sent a message that landowners could be attacked with impunity.

It said there have been 109 recorded attacks so far in 2018 and 15 farm murders, meaning that this year, one white farmer has been killed every five days.

In a statement, Ian Cameron, AfriForum’s Head of Safety said: “Our rural areas are trapped in a crime war. Although the South African government denies that a violence crisis is staring rural areas in the face, the numbers prove that excessive violence plague these areas.”

Gabriel Stols, 35, told the Independent how his younger brother Kyle, 21, was shot dead by four people on a game reserve near Bloemfontein.

“What is happening to us is torture, it is slaughter, it is brutal, it is revenge. The world doesn’t know what is happening in South Africa,” he said.

Hannetjie Ludik, 56, from Pretoria, told the paper that three armed men broke into her family’s house, stole money and raped her.

South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa said the government did not condone attacks or the the seizure of white-owned farms and insisted there would be no repeat of what happened in Zimbabwe a generation ago.

But AfriForum says that the parliament’s bill has led to a culture of revenge among those spoiling for a redistribution of land in a country where some 80% of people describe themselves as black African, but only 1.2% of that community own the country’s rural land.

Julius Malema, the head of South Africa’s ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFF), has called for land to be taken off white farmers. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The policy was proposed by the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Julius Malema who says redistributing land can correct historical injustices.

While there is broader political support for the move, a more measured approach is being called for by Kenneth Meshoe, the head of the African Christian Democratic Party, who told The Independent he believes in land distribution, although he says it should not be taken without compensation

“People like Malema who are promoting hate speech should not be allowed,” he added.

Thousands of people have signed a petition asking Donald Trump to let white people in South Africa to migrate to the U.S.

Meanwhile, Australian Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, said he would push for his country to grant visas to white farmers, should they be displaced.

He provocatively said that such people could be helped from “a civilized country like ours”, sparking anger from South Africa’s Foreign Ministry which called for a retraction.

The fact-checking website, Africa Check, concluded in May 2017 that getting an accurate statistic on the country’s farm murder rate, which it estimated at 0.4 murders per 100,000 people, was “near impossible”.

Gareth Newham from South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies, told the Guardian there was no evidence white farmers were targeted any more than anyone else.

*** The world is silent on this….question is why?

In 2017:

The couple, who had lived in the area for 20 years, were tied up, stabbed, and tortured with a blowtorch for several hours. The masked men stuffed a plastic bag down Mrs Howarth’s throat, and attempted to strangle her husband with a bag around his neck.

The couple were bundled into their own truck, still in their pyjamas, and driven to a roadside where they were shot. Mrs Howarth, 64, a former pharmaceutical company executive, was shot twice in the head. Mr Lynn, 66, was shot in the neck.

Miraculously he survived, and managed to flag down a passer-by early on Sunday morning. Mrs Howarth, who police said was “unrecognisable” from her injuries, had multiple skull fractures, gunshot wounds and “horrific” burns to her breasts.

“Sue was discovered amongst some trees, lying in a ditch,” writes Jana Boshoff, reporter for the local Middelburg Observer newspaper. “Her rescuers managed to find her by following her groans of pain and then noticing drag marks from the road into the field.

In any other country, such a crime would be almost unthinkable. But in South Africa, these kinds of farm attacks are happening nearly every day. This year so far, there have been more than 70 attacks and around 25 murders in similar attacks on white farmers.

Earlier this month, for example, 64-year-old Nicci Simpson was tortured with a power drill during an attack involving three men at her home on a farm in the Vaal area, about two hours drive from Johannesburg.

When paramedics arrived, they found three dead dogs, and the woman lying in a pool of blood, spokesman Russel Meiring told News24. “They used a drill to torture her,” police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini said.

Read more here.

03/20/18

The Present-Day Communist Threat – an Interview with Trevor Loudon – Episode 314

Blunt Force Truth

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO TREVOR’S INTERVIEW ON BLUNT FORCE TRUTH

Trevor Loudon is an author, filmmaker and public speaker from Christchurch, New Zealand. For more than 30 years, he has researched radical left, Marxist and terrorist movements and their covert influence on mainstream politics.

They talk about the Left’s push toward Socialism in America, including the reviving of the “Rainbow Coalition” strategy for the upcoming elections. They discuss the real threat of a small group of people pushing a communist/socialist agenda through the government. Many on the left don’t even understand what “progressive” means, but it is a troubling trend that the media supports with leftist propaganda.

Trevor Loudon is an author, filmmaker and public speaker from Christchurch, New Zealand. For more than 30 years, he has researched radical left, Marxist and terrorist movements and their covert influence on mainstream politics.

They talk about the Left’s push toward Socialism in America, including the reviving of the “Rainbow Coalition” strategy for the upcoming elections. They discuss the real threat of a small group of people pushing a communist/socialist agenda through the government. Many on the left don’t even understand what “progressive” means, but it is a troubling trend that the media supports with leftist propaganda.

With Loudon, they explore many of the frightening realities going on in the U.S. and the world, and they talk about what we can do to stop it.

Also on the podcast, Chuck and Mark consider the way Trump is firing a number of people from his administration and the fake news that the media are making it into.

About the guest:

Trevor Loudon’s thesis is that what is commonly regarded as mainstream political policy is in fact driven and guided by hidden subversive elements. The Democratic party’s consistent defunding of the US military, Obamacare, the Iran Nuclear Deal, normalization of relations with Cuba, Islamic refugee re-settlement, $15 minimum wage, fracking bans, pipeline shutdowns and the push for illegal alien amnesty are all consistent with far-left and Islamist agendas.

Trevor Loudon believes that these forces must be exposed and countered, as America’s continued role as a bastion of freedom is pivotal for the future of western civilization.

Some of Trevor Loudon’s accomplishments:

  • Trevor is currently working on his new film with Director Judd Saul: “Enemies Within: The Church.”
  • Trevor’s hard-hitting political documentary, the Enemies Within, was released in 2016.
  • In Collaboration with the Capital Research Center, Trevor Loudon and Director Judd Saul  created a series of mini-documentaries free to the public:
  • Trevor Loudon discovered the long-hidden relationship between notorious Hawaiian Communist Party member Frank Marshall Davis and the young Barack Obama in 2007.
  • After extensively researching Obama’s ties to the New York and Chicago Marxist movements, Loudon began publishing his findings online, catching the eye of such prominent voices as Accuracy in Media and syndicated radio host Glenn Beck.
  • In 2009 Loudon exposed the communist roots of Obama “Green Jobs Czar” Van Jones. After an extensive campaign by Glenn Beck and others, Jones was forced to resign from his White House position.
  • Since 2011 Loudon has toured the United States promoting his two books “Barack Obama and the Enemies Within” and “The Enemies Within: Communists, Socialists and Progressives in the U.S. Congress” – an extensively footnoted expose of the rapidly unfolding Marxist takeover of the United States government.
  • Loudon has addressed more than 400 conservative, tea party, religious and Republican groups in more than 37 states.
  • Loudon has interviewed many people from both sides of the struggle over the years to former Western intelligence offices, to government undercover operatives inside the communist movement, to former KGB officers.

This research has given Loudon unique insight into how extensively often minuscule communist parties have been able to manipulate, and even control policy formation in many Western countries – particularly the “main enemy:” the United States of America. Loudon’s research shows that this is not just a historical problem but is a very grave and looming threat which will not only impact America’s national security but indeed her very survival.

Trevor proudly serves as a fellow at both the American Freedom Alliance and the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought.

Read Loudon’s blog at http://www.trevorloudon.com/ and explore his research at http://keywiki.org/.

Follow him on Twitter @newzealblog and @TrevorLoudon1.

Follow him on Facebook here.

03/20/18

4 Days of Food Left…Panic? National Grid Hacked

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

If there is no transportation, there is no food, medicine or basic supplies….what country is ready to deal with this?

British cities would be uninhabitable within days and the country is only a few meals from anarchy if the National Grid was taken down in a cyber attack or solar storm, disaster and security experts have warned.

Modern life is so reliant on electricity that a prolonged blackout would quickly lead to a loss of water, fuel, banking, transport and communications that would leave the country “in the Stone Age.”

The warning comes weeks after the Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said Russia had been spying on the UK’s energy infrastructure and could cause “thousands and thousands and thousands” of deaths if it crippled the power supply.

***

The U.S. government has just released an important cybersecurity alert that confirms Russian government cyberattacks targeting energy and other critical infrastructure sectors in the United States.

While there has recently been a significant rise in cyberattacks in these industries, up to now we’ve only been able to speculate on who the actors are, or what their motives may be. In this case the threat actor and their strategic intent has been clearly confirmed, something the U.S. government rarely does publicly.

In addition, the US-CERT alert provides descriptions of each stage of the attack, detailed indicators of compromise (IOCs), and a long list of detection and prevention measures. Many of the attack tactics are like Dragonfly 2.0, so much so that one might call this an expanded playbook for Dragonfly. The Nozomi Networks solution ships today with an analysis toolkit that identifies the presence of Dragonfly 2.0 IOCs.

This article is intended to help you gain perspective on this recent alert, provide additional guidance on what security measures to take, and describe how the Nozomi Networks solution can help.

U.S. energy facilities, like this one, are one of the critical infrastructure targets of the Russian cyberattacks.

Multi-Stage Campaigns Provide Opportunities for Early Detection

The US-CERT alert characterizes this attack as a multi-stage cyber intrusion campaign where Russian cyber actors conducted spear phishing and gained remote access into targeted industrial networks. After obtaining access, the threat vectors conducted network reconnaissance, moved laterally, and collected information pertaining to Industrial Control Systems (ICS).

This pattern of behavior is typical of APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats). APTs occur over an extended period, meaning there is an opportunity to detect and stop them before damage is done. With the right technology monitoring the industrial network, it is much harder for them to go unobserved before their final attack.

In this case the Russian cyberattacks started by infecting staging targets, which are peripheral organizations, such as trusted third-party suppliers, as pivot points for attacking the final intended targets.

The attackers used a multitude of tactics involving information relevant to industrial control professionals for initial infection of the staging targets. Examples include:

  • Altering trade publication websites
  • Sending emails containing resumes for ICS personnel as infected Microsoft Word attachments
  • Analyzing publicly available photos that inadvertently contained information about industrial systems

The credentials of staging targets’ staff were in turn used to send spear phishing emails to the staff of the intended targets. They received malicious .docx files, which communicated with a command and control (C2) server to steal their credentials.

The SMB (Server Message Block) network protocol was used throughout the spear phishing phases to communicate with external servers, as was described for the Dragonfly 2.0 attacks.This is a distinctive tactic. SMB is usually only used to communicate within LANs, not for outbound communications. Now that this is known, asset owners should ensure their firewalls are locked down for outbound service restrictions.

The credentials of the intended targets were used to access victim’s networks. From there, the malware established multiple local administrator accounts, each with a specific purpose. The goals ranged from creation of additional accounts to cleanup activity. For the report, click here.

***
What Is Known

Forensic analysis shows that the threat actors sought information on network and organizational design and control system capabilities within the organization. In one instance, the report says, the threat actors downloaded a small photo from a publicly accessible human resource page, which, when expanded, was a high-resolution photo that displayed control systems equipment models and status information in the background. The threat actors also compromised third-party suppliers to download source code for several intended targets’ websites. They also attempted to remotely access corporate web-based email and virtual private network (VPN) connections.

Once inside the intended target’s network, the threat actors used privileged credentials to access domain controllers via remote desktop protocols (RDP) and then used the batch scripts to enumerate hosts and users, as well as to capture screenshots of systems across the network.

Along with publishing an extensive list of indicators of compromise, the DHS and FBI recommended that network administrators review IP addresses, domain names, file hashes, network signatures, and a consolidated set of YARA rules for malware associated with the intrusion authored by the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. YARA is an open-source and multiplatform tool that provides a mechanism to exploit code similarities between malware samples within a family.

03/20/18

Facebook, Artificial Intelligence Op, Manipulating You

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Is any of this illegal? Well, yet to be determined because no one asks the questions, much less do we know what questions to ask….

It boils down to this: ‘facts don’t matter, it is what readers believe’ or as is in A Few Good Mena dream world is it does not matter what I believe, it matters what I can prove. Artificial intelligence is proven, believed and kinda sorta factual?

Facebook says it has saved more than $2 billion from its investments in Open Compute. But five years is an eternity on the Internet, and now every big tech company is out to conquer a different problem. Serving up content cheaply can be done, but figuring out what kind of content to serve among billions of posts is still a challenge. So, just as Facebook set out to rebuild the hardware industry half a decade ago with the Open Compute project, it has more recently created an internal platform to harness artificial intelligence so it can deliver exactly the content you want to see. And it wants to build this “machine learning” platform to scale. (“Machine learning” is a form of artificial intelligence that allows computers to learn how to operate without being pre-programmed.) “We’re trying to build more than 1.5 billion AI agents—one for every person who uses Facebook or any of its products,” says Joaquin Candela, the head of the newly created Applied Machine Learning group. “So how the hell do you do that?”

FBLearner Flow combines several machine-learning models to process several billion data points, drawn from the activity of the site’s 1.5 billion users, and forms predictions about thousands of things: which user is in a photograph, which message is likely to be spam. The algorithms created from FBLearner Flow’s models help define what content appears in your News Feed and what advertisements you see.

It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that Facebook’s use of artificial intelligence will help eliminate some of the company’s 13,000 employees. The reality couldn’t be more different, says chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer. AI is helping Facebook augment the capabilities of its human engineers. “We’re able to do things that we have not able to do before,” he says. More here.

***

Stop clicking the bait on Facebook, you are participating in psychometic testing for Facebook.

Predicting individual traits and attributes based on various cues, such as samples of written text (8), answers to a psychometric test (9), or the appearance of spaces people inhabit (10), has a long history. Human migration to digital environment renders it possible to base such predictions on digital records of human behavior. It has been shown that age, gender, occupation, education level, and even personality can be predicted from people’s Web site browsing logs (1115). Similarly, it has been shown that personality can be predicted based on the contents of personal Web sites (16), music collections (17), properties of Facebook or Twitter profiles such as the number of friends or the density of friendship networks (1821), or language used by their users (22). Furthermore, location within a friendship network at Facebook was shown to be predictive of sexual orientation (23).

This study demonstrates the degree to which relatively basic digital records of human behavior can be used to automatically and accurately estimate a wide range of personal attributes that people would typically assume to be private. The study is based on Facebook Likes, a mechanism used by Facebook users to express their positive association with (or “Like”) online content, such as photos, friends’ status updates, Facebook pages of products, sports, musicians, books, restaurants, or popular Web sites. Likes represent a very generic class of digital records, similar to Web search queries, Web browsing histories, and credit card purchases. For example, observing users’ Likes related to music provides similar information to observing records of songs listened to online, songs and artists searched for using a Web search engine, or subscriptions to related Twitter channels. In contrast to these other sources of information, Facebook Likes are unusual in that they are currently publicly available by default. However, those other digital records are still available to numerous parties (e.g., governments, developers of Web browsers, search engines, or Facebook applications), and, hence, similar predictions are unlikely to be limited to the Facebook environment. More here.

So why does Facebook feel like it is a victim of Cambridge Analytica? Well it seems Cambridge Analytica was a customer of Facebook and bought customer data for their own use. Facebook feels betrayed but how about that relationship? Facebook censors and mines data for their own political missions and frankly Cambridge Analytica does the same thing. These two companies along with several others and hired outside data and espionage types are changing the whole balance and equilibrium of the globe, question is to what end?

***

The data company that helped push Donald Trump to victory is now hoping it will win two lucrative contracts to boost White House policy messaging and to expand sales for the Trump Organization.

Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm that uses personality profiling, claims Steve Bannon as a board member, who will soon officially be Mr Trump’s chief strategist.

The firm is backed by billionaire investor Robert Mercer, whose daughter Rebekah sits on the 16-person Trump transition team.

The London-based firm said it has marketing and psychological data on around 230 million Americans, which could help Mr Trump to increase his real estate business, or scope out the policy landscape for his government. More here.

In case you are wondering about global opposition research and affecting power to power with global leaders, check out this video:

Now this cat may appear to be quite an odd whistleblower but….

Christopher Wylie, who worked for data firm Cambridge Analytica, reveals how personal information was taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters in order to target them with personalised political advertisements. At the time the company was owned by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and headed at the time by Donald Trump’s key adviser, Steve Bannon. Its CEO is Alexander Nix.

03/19/18

China To Ban Citizens With Bad ‘Social Credit’ Rating From Traveling

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

China has banned more than nine million people so far from buying plane tickets and at least another three million from buying business-class train tickets because of their poor “social credit” ratings, according to the deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission. The ratings have also been used to deny loans and other forms of government support to more than 6,000 businesses blacklisted by the government. Two statements issued by the Chinese government on Friday confirmed that rule breakers can expect to face travel bans of up to a year. But I would bet that in some cases if not most, the bans are longer or permanent.

Under China’s new social scoring system, trustworthy entrepreneurs and individuals will be rewarded, while those who commit social misdeeds such as fraud, spreading false information about terrorism and causing trouble on flights will be discredited. You can even wind up on the blacklist for parking a bike in the wrong place or giving an insincere apology. President Xi Jinping’s plan is based on the principle ‘once untrustworthy, always restricted’, which will become effective on May 1st. Xi was just declared ruler for life… the first since Mao ruled the country. The system is expected to be fully implemented by 2020 and Xi will see it is enforced brutally and efficiently.

China’s Social Credit System is coordinated by the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms. It mashes together information gleaned from a wide variety of sources in order to give every citizen a social-credit rating. This includes data from the country’s social insurance database and the criminal records system, as well as information gleaned online. It is intended to penalize not just citizens who have failed to pay fines or taxes, for example, but also people the government deems guilty of ‘spreading false information’ and for ‘causing trouble’.

The social credit system will, according to government officials, “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.” Everything from how well you treat your parents to what you’re buying will affect your eligibility to receive various rewards and benefits. It’s a situation played out by way of Charlie Brooker’s dark satire in an episode of Black Mirror, Nosedive. In it, the central character, Lacie, lives in a world where her social rating dictates every aspect of her life, including travel and work.

This comes as China’s government has led a concerted push to remove Internet anonymity from mobile phone and social networks so that anyone online can be identified at all times by the authorities. This is in addition to the country’s firewall, which restricts access to websites outside of China that its government doesn’t want Chinese citizens to see and use. Blocked websites include search engines, foreign media and social media websites outside of the Chinese government’s control.

China started building this system three years ago. On Friday (March 16), it was announced that travelers who use expired tickets or smoked on trains would also be put on a blacklist, according to statements issued on the National Development and Reform Commission’s website. This is the beginning of Xi’s morality crackdown in the nation. Along with this, people are being forced to display a picture of their Dear Leader somewhere in their homes.

Those found to have committed financial wrongdoings, such as employers who failed to pay social insurance or people who refuse to pay fines, would also face restrictions, said the statements which were dated March 2nd. The commission added that the new rules would come into effect on May 1st. According to a Xinhua News Agency report, the government will look to improve the mechanism to ensure that social credit records are updated in a timely fashion and disputes can be well handled. I don’t think anyone is foolish enough to believe that horse puckey.

If you fall out of favor with the government in China, you will be walking to work or starving to death. Communists do not care. They are looking to reduce the population in the cities anyway.

The Chinese government’s Social Credit System has been duplicated in the private sector as well, with Sesame Credit, an affiliate of Alibaba’s Alipay subsidiary, controlled by billionaire Jack Ma, providing loans based on social credit ratings for a number of years already. It lends money based not just on an individual’s credit history, but also their buying habits and online social circles, and encourages users to flaunt their credit score publicly. That credit score is also shared with Baihe, one of China’s biggest online dating services, which promotes subscribers with good social credit scores with Sesame to prominent spots on its website. China’s government hopes that by adopting a combination of punishments and rewards it can keep its people in line and the Communist Party of China in power permanently.

A Wired report last year found that a user with a low Zhima Credit score had to pay more to rent a bicycle, hotel room or even an umbrella. Zhima Credit’s CEO has said, in an eerie prefiguring of the new travel restrictions, that the system “will ensure that the bad people in society don’t have a place to go, while good people can move freely and without obstruction.” This is right out of 1984. A dystopian society employing digital fascism. If you are a good communist and obey the rules, you will be favored. If not… you are expendable. Welcome to Xi’s China and their version of the Gestapo. What’s old is new again in the digital age.

03/19/18

The Constitution of the United States as a Contract

By: Thomas Wigand | New Zeal

Cross-posted from Bear Witness Central

Author’s Note: This is an abridged version of “The Constitution of the United States of America as a Contract ” – one of the “communiqués” from my book Communiques from the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. This particular communiqué discusses our Constitution from what this writer believes to be a novel perspective – analyzed as a legal contract rather than as a political document – and from that, how there has been a Progressive-driven breach of contract. The original of this communiqué includes some of the “legalese” of contract interpretation principles used in law; here I have mostly excised those and distilled to the essence of the concept. In that sense, you will find this piece not unlike Mark Levin’s new book “Rediscovering Americanism: And the Tyranny of Progressivism” (although my book was released a year before) – I say that not to brag, merely to acknowledge kinship with another who is working to warn Americans about the manifest anti-Americanism of the Progressive division of Collectivism.

The Constitution of the United States of America as a Contract

The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.

George Washington

Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties. And not to Democrats alone do I make this appeal, but to all who love these great and true principles.

Abraham Lincoln

To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.

Calvin Coolidge

It is submitted to you that we could (and should?) look at the Constitution as equivalent to a legally binding contract between the people of the United States of America as one party to the contract, and the federal government as the other party.

Discussion regarding the Constitution of the United States of America typically revolves around a debate between “strict constructionists” (Conservatives and objective legal scholars) and “living document” proponents (Progressives and agenda-driven “legal scholars”). In the interest of illuminating the fundamental premise of the debate, let’s approach it from a slightly different angle – by applying legal concepts from “contract law.”

Continue reading

03/19/18

Another Mixed Day

By: Kent Engelke | Capitol Securities

Markets were mixed Friday heading into this week’s FOMC meeting. White House turmoil was looked past and attention was focused on better than expected factory output and consumer sentiment.

Commenting about sentiment, confidence is now at the highest level since January 2004 with the sharpest gains coming from the lower third of the economy. Inflationary expectations are at a 3-year high of 2.9% versus the expected rate of 2.5%.

Inflation is a two part phenomenon. The first part is too much money chasing too few goods fearing higher prices tomorrow.

If inflationary expectations become unanchored, Treasury yields will rise, for such are already 1.25% to 1.5% lower based upon the historical relationship between the 10-year Treasury and real GDP. In other words, there is great confidence in the inflation fighting prowess of the Federal Reserve.

As noted above and speaking of the Fed, the two day meeting commences tomorrow. A 0.25% increase is expected. Will the Committee suggest the possibility of three more increases in 2018 for a total of four? As little as six weeks ago, the markets had not yet discounted two.

For what it is worth department, Larry Kudlow who is now head of the National Council of Economic Advisors, privately told the White House the economy is on the edge of 4% to 5% growth as the economy is on the “front edge of the biggest investment bomb in perhaps 30-40 years.”

Some may immediately dismiss this outlook as politically motivated, however, it is consistent with the outlook of JP Morgan and several Federal Reserve presidents as well as former FRB Chair Greenspan. The reason for this anticipated growth by all groups… tax and banking reform including the immediate expensing of capital goods spending, as well as the acceleration of monetary velocity.

Changing topics, many times I have commented about market imbalances. Friday’s WSJ perhaps partially quantified these imbalances via the flow of funds. According to the WSJ, almost $5 billion has poured into tech focused funds this year. This figure represents half of what this group pulled in, in all of 2017. During January, the tech sector pulled in a record $3.7 billion, the greatest inflow for this sector (and any other sector) since March 2000.

The Journal reiterated that less than six companies are responsible for any 2018 S & P 500 gains. Without these gains this marquee index would be down almost into “corrective territory.” Wow!

Continuing with this theme, according to the Commerce Department, Internet sales account for about 10% total retail sales. These sales include purchases made from Walmart and any other companies that have an online presence.

One of the companies that has contributed to a large proportion of the S & P 500 advance is an online retailer. Amazon’s total sales are about 25% of that of Walmart, but Amazon is worth about three times more than Walmart. Walmart makes in a year what Amazon has made since it went public in 1997.

I ask is this sustainable? Perhaps the appropriate question is this rational given that companies are valued by corporate cashflow discounted by some interest rates? The growth rate is a minority factor in valuation formulas.

Speaking of growth, the Commerce Department states online sales grew by 9% in 2017. Overall, retail sales were up about 4.1%.

Some have stated indexing and technology based trading has created a more efficient and liquid market. I will argue it has created an imbalanced market that could be teetering like a pile of sand. What grain will cause the sand pile to topple?

Perhaps this week’s Fed meeting could be that grain of sand; the grain of sand that is really better than expected growth that generated demand pull and cost push inflation.

Last night the foreign markets were down. London was down 1.29%, Paris was down 0.74% and Frankfurt was down 0.91%. China was up 0.29%, Japan was down 0.90% and Hang Sang was up 0.04%.

The Dow should open moderately lower on a myriad of fears including monetary policy, trade and political tensions, potential large privacy violations from social media companies and technical trading patterns. The 10-year is off 6/32 to yield 2.87%.

03/18/18

Former Assistant FBI Director Says Top Feds Plotted to Protect Hillary Clinton

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

Former assistant FBI director James Kallstrom also said officials had a scheme to blame Trump for the Russian interference during the 2016 election.

Former FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom appeared on Fox News Channel with Maria Bartiromo on ‘Sunday Morning Futures’ to discuss the firing of Andrew McCabe and other issues concerning the FBI. He dropped a bombshell… he said that “high-ranking people throughout the government… had a plot to not have Hillary Clinton indicted so that she could remain the flawed candidate that she was.” Kallstrom was in the FBI for 27 years, so what he says has weight and credibility.

Sessions acted just two days before McCabe’s official retirement would have enabled him to begin drawing a lucrative federal pension. The FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) recommended that Sessions fire McCabe because he reportedly lied to investigators and leaked all over the place to the media. Kallstrom suggested that McCabe was emblematic of continuing corruption among top federal officials.

“I think there’s a big sigh of relief and a good feeling about the fact that an FBI element, and organization in the FBI, recommended that he be fired, as opposed to them being mute and having someone else make that recommendation,” Kallstrom said. “So I think they’re very happy about that. And they’re just gnawing at the bit to actually get involved in a real investigation, not a phony investigation like [former FBI Director] Jim Comey conducted,” Kallstrom added.

Kallstrom said that the “plot” to fix the 2016 election goes “right to the top,” which leveled a finger right at President Obama and former CIA director John Brennan. Brennan who basically threatened Trump with a tweet after McCabe was summarily fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Kallstrom cited text messages from FBI counterintelligence chief Peter Stzrok which appear to show “they had a backup plan to frame Donald Trump” as a Russian agent. “This whole thing is a total phony,” he said about the Muller probe. “How would you feel… if someone had a phony scheme about you go on for months and months and months?” I’d say that’s pretty direct and blunt and pretty much dead on.

During Comey’s tenure, McCabe oversaw the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state. Host Maria Bartiromo noted that 10 people “at the top of the FBI and the Department of Justice” have been “either fired or reassigned” over the last several months as details about the Clinton investigation and the investigation into Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign came to light.

“Obviously this is no coincidence,” Bartiromo said. “Do you think somebody was directing them, or do you think they just came to the conclusion on their own, this leadership at the FBI and the Department of Justice, that they wanted to change the outcome of the election, that they wanted to protect Hillary Clinton?” “I think we have ample facts revealed to us during this last year and a half that high-ranking people throughout government, not just the FBI, high-ranking people had a plot to not have Hillary Clinton, you know, indicted,” Kallstrom said.

He also said: “Jim Comey is not a stupid individual. I think he’s naive and has an ego the size of the Empire State Building, and he has a lot of other faults, that got him into this trouble. But I could be wrong, they could have been in lockstep. But there is no question that he, and McCabe others in the FBI, and we’ll find out the State Dept., and the National Security Advisors to the president, and John Brennan. Did you see John Brennan’s remarks?”

“The animus and the malice against Trump is prima facie exposure of how he felt about Trump before the election,” Kallstrom said. “My sources tell me [Brennan] was leaking almost weekly or daily, and he was taking that bunch of phony crap supposedly from Russia, and peddling that through the Congress and the media, he was one of the active people. I’ve known him a long time and I think he’s involved, and quite frankly, I think it goes right to the top, quite frankly.” Oh, and I hope and pray they nail Brennan in all this.

Bartiromo asked, “To President Obama?” “It goes right to the top, and it involves that whole strategy. They were going to win [the 2016 election], nobody would ever know this stuff, and they just unleashed the intelligence community. Look at the unmaskings? We haven’t even heard about that yet. Look at the way they violated the rights of these American citizens?” Kallstrom explained. “I hope Gen. Flynn sues a lot of people, because he was handled so bad… He didn’t lie to the FBI. They didn’t even interview him about a crime. He was in his legal authorized mode when all that happened,” he said.

“They are the people who committed felonies, not the General. They’ve ruined [Flynn] – and because they threatened his son, you know, they bankrupted this guy that gave his life to this country. Just the whole dealings. Look how they dealt with the IRS? There are so many things they have done badly.” I’m no fan of Flynn, but his constitutional rights were violated and he was railroaded. Yes, he’s been involved with the Russians… I think he’s a Russian plant. So get him on that, not some trumped up charge of lying that didn’t happen.

Kallstrom also said officials had a scheme to blame Trump for the Russian interference during the 2016 election. “They had a backup plan to basically frame Donald Trump and that’s what’s been going,” Kallstrom said.

Trump targeted McCabe, Comey and special counsel Robert Mueller in a series of tweets over the weekend. “As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded, there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump Campaign. As many are now finding out, however, there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice & State. #DrainTheSwamp,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “The Fake News is beside themselves that McCabe was caught, called out and fired. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars was given to wife’s campaign by Crooked H friend, [former Virginia Gov.] Terry [McAuliffe], who was also under investigation? How many lies? How many leaks? Comey knew it all, and much more!” Trump added.

Trump insisted that Mueller’s probe “should never have been started” because “there was no collusion and there was no crime.” “It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the [Democratic National Committee], and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!” Trump tweeted. Witch hunt indeed. The intelligence agencies need an enema and a reboot. Oh, and a lot of people need to go to jail over all of this, not just lose their pensions or be reassigned.