0ne Half a Million Souls in the US Alone

United States set to Commemorate One Half Million Casualties to COVID-19

From the article: “WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States faces a dark milestone despite a recent decline in COVID-19 cases as it prepares to mark a staggering half million deaths this week, nearly a year after the novel coronavirus pandemic upended the country with dueling public health and economic crises.”

Read more: https://apple.news/AgaDed6MnTmOTY_UrWgerGA

Stand Down

Quote:

“We will not tolerate actions that go against the fundamental principles of the oath we share, including actions associated with extremist or dissident ideologies,” the memo reads. “Service members, DoD civilian employees, and all those who support our mission, deserve an environment free of discrimination, hate, and harassment.”

Austin writes in the memo that the stand-down is the first step in “what I believe must be a concerted effort to better educate ourselves and our people about the scope of this problem and to develop sustainable ways to eliminate the corrosive effects that extremist ideology and conduct have on the workforce.”

Source: https://apple.news/AxF_1VpsBS7KUfu5d-KMVEw

Strength is important because it facilitates a free democratic republic. A country based not only on laws, but on precedent. It gives me hope to see these critical issues addressed seriously.

You might be from Houston if…

You might be from Houston, the most diverse city in the USA, if you, in a pinch, use dominoes as your chips in Texas Hold’em.

Bones as chips for Texas Hold’em

You might be from Houston, the most diverse city in the USA, if you, know Texas is the number 1 wind-energy producing state in the country.

American Terrorists Attack and Enter the US Capitol Building Encouraged by President Trump

GOP loses all power

“Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85).”

This is an epically sad day for America.

Trump supporters are not deserving of carrying the American flag. I have tried to be impartial and have criticized Presidents and praised Presidents from both parties. But this? Rioting and ransacking the Capitol?

This is unacceptable, unAmerican, unPatriotic and now …. it is radical insurrection and treasonous. No deflection, own your sedition.

Choose. Country? or Trump? WTF America?

Solarwinds hack by Russia can’t be understated

While America has been reading news articles about tweets our adversaries have been busy.

Busy since March 2020.

Not my first rodeo, and given hackers are incredibly patient and typically play the “long game”, reported breaches in my experience are frequently off by two years or greater. So I’d guess 2018 ish for the initial entry point.

Regardless, SUNBURST, dug deep with APT into places that shouldn’t even be possible. Like the power grid.

https://theintercept.com/2020/12/24/solarwinds-hack-power-infrastructure/

“to gain access into the 15 electric, oil, gas, and manufacturing entities that were infected with the software. But Lee notes that it may not be possible to uncover such activity if the attackers did access them and burrow further into the industrial control networks, because critical infrastructure entities generally don’t do extensive logging and monitoring of their control system networks.“

and

“In these ICS networks, most organizations don’t have the data and visibility to actually look for the breach,” says Lee. “So they might determine if they are compromised, but … almost none of them have network logs to … determine if there is follow-on activity [in their network].”

In other words, we don’t know.

The Solarwinds hack is so bad… that in response … the United States will do nothing.

Why?

Because when you own department of homeland security, and the treasury, among 18,000 other organizations are compromised, You have been epically pwned.

it means your adversaries totally own you. They have surely added back doors and more back doors and more back doors into the systems as well as “sleepers” like some subcontractor’s laptop used once a year to service a particular piece of hardware.

Meanwhile we are using AI/ML bots to automate trading on the stock markets. They all have triggers, “if this / then that”, if bond yields hit x percent up or down, if company y changes their guidance up or down by y percent, sell all. Crash.

In other words, those of us in the devops and infosec world, hackers, know if an adversary has infiltrated even half this far, its game over. Yank and replace. “Game over dude.”

We have one option in the short term; capitulate. Concede. Because you can’t “rip and replace” everything simultaneously across an unknown number of compromised networks simultaneously when you can’t even identify them. And with APTs in place possibly down to the Silicon chip level, that are just lying in wait, even rip and replace will just get reinfected.

Stuxnet was the greatest malware/hack ever written. The US wrote it. We created Pandora’s box. We reimagined hell. Then left the lid open. The NSA got hacked and our own code has been “reflected” back on us. Since somewhere between 2012 and 2014 initially by my estimation.

All of the stuxnet code and more is now widely available to download for free on the dark web. You could do it today. Fire up VMWare fusion, kali linux, metasploit and an external wifi adapter and your are good to go. Or just use a raspi.

Officially I think notPETYA is still “the most expensive hack in history.” (get it? “think not”? but I digress….)

Unofficially? The Solarwinds hack is the Anvil dropped on the camel’s back that has broken it and brought it to its knees.

Solarwinds will shatter the geopolitical and monetary policy of the United States and the world.

Get your COVID vaccine. Get some popcorn. Watch your 401k and pension funds knowing that one or two edits and they go to zero. And try to wrap your brain around the fact that our military power is second only to financial power, and we are losing that. Any monetary power we have left is because they allow it.

Maybe buy some Bitcoin?

Take some anti anxiety meds. And pull out your Boy Scout handbook and practice setting up that old tent. (Just be careful where you put it in case the upstream dam and levees gates suddenly open up.

And if there is a “deep state”, maybe look externally instead of internally.

Happy 2020.

UPDATE: Further publicly released details available here:
https://us-cert.cisa.gov/ncas/alerts/aa20-352a

Women’s March 2020

On Election Day in 2016 I was living in San Francisco. We were watching the election results come in with my friends at COVO on Mission Street. I was working on a startup and these amazing people welcomed me in.

Quite frankly everyone was in shock that a TV reality show star who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth was elected. I certainly was shocked.

But being a BS Political Science Major I had hope that the man who would occupy the office of the President would rise to the occasion. After all, no one person can be President. You have to surround yourself with good people and listen to them.

When 9-11 happened many wondered if George W would be able to unite us in recovery.

And he did. Damnit.

He rose to the office of the presidency.

Fast forward to 2016: Still I felt shocked and terrified that the electoral college and both political parties had failed us in 2016.

In January after the 2016 election I both marched with the Women’s March and photographed it.

It was peaceful but strong. A clear example of our nation’s long history of peaceful and strong protests.

Women’s March, January 2017, San Francisco, CA credit: Ed Schipul

Growing up the son of a Father who was first a Marine, then Army, he served in Vietnam as a Medic. Then got out, went to Medical School and re-upped this time as a Major.

Retired honorably and decorated as an LTC. Buried at Ft. Sam National Cemetery.

Further, my Mother served as an officer in the Army Reserves retiring honorably as a Major. So yes, my “Mom wore combat boots.” And was a qualified marksman like my Dad. I’m proud as heck of them both!

Next… back to our story…

Women’s March, January 2017, San Francisco, CA credit: Ed Schipul

There I was in SF trying to raise funds for a robotics startup. And randomly this uninformed TV guy who shares no values at all with the Midwest or Christians of any kind, is talking about “walls” and a “Muslim ban”?!

And people were buying it.

Baroo! Has he ever been to the Bay Area? Or south Texas? Y’all know ranches cross the border, right?

I simply couldn’t imagine a draft-dodger who completely lacked discipline being our Commander in Chief. Because it’s kind of a big deal.

Women’s March, January 2017, San Francisco, CA credit: Ed Schipul

As I’ve said many times, I have *not* served in the military.

We had our kids young and the economics weren’t there. Absolutely I registered with selective service in case the country needed me. But at the end of the day – I have not been shot at in the context of war in a foreign land. (Only at a college party in SA. Oh the irony. No bullet holes – because I run fast? I dunno. Lucky I guess. And stupid for being there.)

Women’s March, January 2017, San Francisco, CA credit: Ed Schipul

I remember talking at length with one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever worked with, and saying.

“It’s the women. The women are going to have to save us. It’s not fair to dump that on y’all. But I can’t see any other way out of this mess.”

Women’s March, January 2017, San Francisco, CA credit: Ed Schipul

At the time I still had hope President Trump would grow into the job, surround himself with good people and listen to them. And I prayed he had the wisdom and knowledge to make wise decisions based on what must be an overwhelmingly complex job.

I felt the same way about President Obama. After all, he wasn’t exactly experienced in the world stage. McCain probably would have gotten my vote. Then “Palin” happened and it was an immediate observation that he was surrounding himself with the wrong people. John McCain was an amazing statesman and a hero in my book. But Palin being one heartbeat away…. I just couldn’t do it.

So here we are.

I for one, knowing the demographics, the actuarial tables, the generational trends (most of which I view as healthy), am hopeful.

I am hopeful for America, the United States of America, primarily because of the women who are rising to power.

This, the rise of women in power, is no threat to me; it is hope. Hope for the country I love.

ICS/DCS Control Systems Aren’t prepared for this. Still.

An ingeniously simple control systems experimental power grid hack attack from 2007. Source:

https://www.wired.com/story/how-30-lines-of-code-blew-up-27-ton-generator/

A protective relay attached to that generator was designed to prevent it from connecting to the rest of the power system without first syncing to that exact rhythm: 60 hertz. But Assante’s hacker in Idaho Falls had just reprogrammed that safeguard device, flipping its logic on its head.

At 11:33 a.m. and 23 seconds, the protective relay observed that the generator was perfectly synced. … It opened a circuit breaker to disconnect the machine.

When the generator was detached from the larger circuit …(and)… relieved of the burden of sharing its energy with that vast system, it instantly began to accelerate, spinning faster, like a pack of horses that had been let loose from its carriage. As soon as the protective relay observed that the generator’s rotation had sped up to be fully out of sync with the rest of the grid, its maliciously flipped logic immediately reconnected it to the grid’s machinery.

The moment the diesel generator was again linked to the larger system, it was hit with the wrenching force of every other rotating generator on the grid. All of that equipment pulled the relatively small mass of the diesel generator’s own spinning components

Yup, it self destructed by reversing the logic of a safety relay. Brilliant and terrifying hack – both.

We are not prepared.

Russia – “unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages”

From the article:

“No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, said in the Justice Department statement.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-19/u-s-charges-six-russian-intelligence-agents-for-past-hacking/

Hospitality Industry Jobs Killed by COVID

Hospitality industry jobs are f’d. Big time. You care. You need us/them/we. We take care of each other.

If you have never worked in the service industry, then you might not know that a Monday or Tuesday night (it varies by geography) are called “Industry Night.” And in every town there is/are one or two establishments that stay open a bit later and focus on catering to other professionals in the service field. If you are “industry”, special pricing and special consideration is given. And thus you ALWAYS tip your compatriots 20% or more. It’s an unwritten rule we all follow.

If you have never worked in the service industry, the people, like I was and still am, who behind the scenes make everything work smoothly, then their health, safety, economics and future, might not resonate with you.

But if you have always been served, and never the server, give it another 12 months and you will seriously care. Because you won’t have a pub or restaurant to go to.

From the article: https://www.npr.org/2020/09/29/917756656/pandemic-threatens-long-term-job-security-after-hospitality-industry-layoffs

“Nationally, hotel occupancy is hovering at around 50%, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association. In urban areas, business may be even slower — in the 20% to 40% range.”

“Virtually all business travel has halted. … Conventions have canceled for the year, or postponed. Pretty much all we are seeing in hotels are the leisure travelers,” said Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association.”

I am not suggesting opening everything up and a return to the wishful and fictional recidivist memories of what makes America “great”. And I don’t have all of the answers. That’s the point; none of us do.

I am posting this as a former busboy, waiter, fill-in bartender-of-last-resort in my youth. It’s how you partially pay for college. Or at least it was for many of us.

I am proud to have kept the (your) cutlery and dishes sanitary and well rinsed, the industrial ovens and grills on giant wheels cleaned with just the right amount of industrial strength cleaners. The kind that eat into your skin if you don’t wear elbow length gloves. And again rinsed and washed so customers didn’t get sick.

You do your “industry” job “right” because it’s the right thing to do. And hey, don’t forget, we also eat and drink where we work. And we bring in our family and friends.

The food and beverage “industry” is honorable work. I’m proud to have done it for years. And I’m not too prideful to return to working in the industry of restaurants, bars, and hotels if I needed to. I bet the 6 AM prepper is still is terrified of paper cuts (tomato juice is a killer) and I bet they still slice the prosciutto last (it’s greasy so you do it last before cleaning the blade.)

In conclusion, as painful as it is to write this, we must *not* fully open the service economy back up until we solve COVID. All that will do is endanger, and sometimes, literally kill my friends in the industry.

And to achieve that, in a time of international crisis, the people in industry should not be forgotten.

For your own research: https://www.bea.gov/data/gdp/gdp-industry

The k in COVID

“…. we don’t need to know all the sufficient factors that go into a super-spreading event to avoid what seems to be a necessary condition most of the time: many people, especially in a poorly ventilated indoor setting, and especially not wearing masks.”

“As Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida, told me, given the huge numbers associated with these clusters, targeting them would be very effective in getting our transmission numbers down.” “

source: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/09/k-overlooked-variable-driving-pandemic/616548/

HHS Ads on Coronavirus

Me: clearly the country is feeling despair regarding the over 200 thousand Americans who have died from the Coronavirus. Many of our people are in quarantine, self-quarantine, unemployed, dead, sick, recovering, feeling guilt from passing the disease to others, mourning, confused, in anguish, and looking for any light.

Therefore a public relations campaign to educate the public on causes, prevention, treatment, the facts, and yes “hope” for life with and hopefully after COVID is appropriate imho.

But not like this. Copy/paste from the article:

‘It’s like every red flag’: Trump-ordered HHS ad blitz raises alarms

Excerpts:

The health department is moving quickly on a highly unusual advertising campaign to “defeat despair” about the coronavirus, a $300 million-plus effort that was shaped by a political appointee close to President Donald Trump and executed in part by close allies of the official, using taxpayer funds.

The ad blitz, described in some budget documents as the “Covid-19 immediate surge public advertising and awareness campaign,” is expected to lean heavily on video interviews between administration officials and celebrities, who will discuss aspects of the coronavirus outbreak and address the Trump administration’s response to the crisis, according to six individuals with knowledge of the campaign who described its workings to POLITICO.

….

(My opinion: Perhaps the only good news is the director is undoubtably familiar with how to sway American public opinion.)

….

“Two HHS officials said that Caputo had spent weeks extolling Tolmor’s work, arguing that the Russian-born filmmaker — who had been nominated for an Oscar, but had no prior experience producing U.S. public health campaigns — would bring a fresh eye to the work and could execute Caputo’s vision.”

Source: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/25/trump-hhs-ads-coronavirus-421957?cid=apn

Crash of US Dollar

“… the dollar’s share of official foreign-exchange reserves has declined from a little over 70% in 2000 to a little less than 60% today, according to the BIS. That downtrend could gather momentum in the years ahead, especially with the U.S. currently leading the charge in de-globalization and decoupling. With America’s share of reserves well in excess of its share in world GDP and trade, such a correction might well be inevitable in an increasingly fragmented, multi-polar world.”

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-06-14/dollar-crash-how-will-it-unfold

My opinion: the author does not mention the supply chain. Or “purchase orders” upon which the supply chain depends. Or the incentive for other countries to free themselves from the impacts of tariffs.

Pause for a moment and ask yourself, do you think China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the EU, etc aren’t avoiding VAT and US economic sanctions using blockchain backed “purchase orders”?

Is it just a coincidence ETH, the dominant player in both “proof of work” and “proof of stake” crypto blockchain smart contracts, was created and backed by Russia, the largest energy supplier to the EU?

Forget politics and think like a Neanderthal for a minute. Maslow’s hierarchy.

Life depends on mundane stuff like food, water and energy. All of these involve complicated supply chains that can be manipulated in a trade war.

If we, the United States of America, were being controlled by a foreign currency, would we tolerate it? No.

Russia didn’t start this break towards independence from US economic hegemony, Europe did with the Euro. But they kept Central Banks’ central control so it hasn’t provided freedom.

Meanwhile China was like “heck-with-it, just pin it to the dollar and choke their supply chain.. Oh and invent BTC, let Binance flourish, etc etc…

The American-centric worldview is just that, a “world view” which by definition has built in bias and distorted perceptions. It can be blinding.

For the sake of future generations in every country, we must consider their future, not just ours. Loss of monetary influence would be a world changing event. Nobody knows how this will shake out.

It is hard for me to shake off the words spoken to me recently while on a walk. To paraphrase their words:

“Dude just accept it. We surrendered in 2016 to a history of racism and sexism. 2020 is the year America finally is starting to see what happens when you surrender to some imaginary and some real dragons. But is it a bad thing to let other countries deal with their own problems? Who made us world police?”

I don’t have an answer. It’s like the first time a child sees a horrific car accident. You can’t “un-see” it.

Our President Hasn’t Been a Unifier

“All I ask is he keep his disrespect, his foul language far away…. Our president hasn’t been a unifier.” – Justin Blake after the [redacted**] shooting of his nephew ***

“Justin Blake declared that President Trump must be defeated as he stood over the spot where a police officer shot his nephew in the back seven times.”

Source: https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-09-01/trump-kenosha-jacob-blake (Edit: As of Sept 18, 2020, this link is not working and cannot be used as verification of the quote, which I find ridiculous. The media IS definitely part of the problem.)

There are facts like America has passed 180,000 COVID-19 deaths. And that our culture, when scientifically tested by social scientists, has a proven racial bias against Black Americans. Those are facts.

There are opinions, frequently based on facts. But lately many people are forming opinions based on lies they believe to be facts.

These people have been tricked.

It is no secret that I did NOT vote for Trump. I expected, sadly, that President Trump would be an ineffective leader.

Yet by “ineffective” I was thinking corruption, tons of White House dinners with dignitaries and CEOs, grifting, illegal activity, disregard for the Hatch Act, ignoring the emoluments clause in The Constitution of the United States of America – that type of garden variety criminal stuff.

But just wow. The damage Trump has done to America, the deaths caused by his inaction, his rancor, his divisive speech and actions, the actual carnage he has left in his wake… for lack of a better phrase, bring me to the point of despair.

And let me be clear – we, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – we, still and forever want you, the Trump voter, the Trump supporters, to rejoin this great nation. You are part of our strength, ya just made one heck of a mistake. Own it, “man up”. Shake the memory of this loser off your shoulders and help us rebuild.

To those who voted for him, that was foolish, but simply put, you were tricked. This is forgivable. Everyone gets tricked at one point or another. The definition of “fool” is technically:

So you foolishly voted for Trump. And now our Nation is weaker, in my opinion, than at any time in recent history. Putin laughs at our puppet in charge.

Wait. Hang on. You now need to help us clean up this mess.

You, Trump voters, are still my fellow Americans. I love and respect you. Yes, you made a mistake, a terrible miscalculation, by disregarding the character of this fool. Yet you are not a fool, you just acted foolishly based on the data you had at the time.

Your data has changed.

And for those of you who still support and want this trickster, this loser in chief, I ask you one question:

“Do you believe, if re-elected, Trump will change course, in words and actions, to unify the country he has divided?”

YES or NO?

If you do NOT believe Trump will change course and UNIFY the people, you have to accept that you are not for the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

Donald Trump is, by far, the worst President in my lifetime. He is a loser. Period.

Yes, I agree with Justin Blake when he says “Our President Hasn’t Been a Unifier”

And I am FOR:

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

——- the following is an addendum in response to my error in a post on linkedin —-

[*** CORRECTION: There was an error in what was supposed to be just the “pull quote” to articulate the issue. It was discussed on linkedini and I was incorrect in my replies to a good friend. I apologize for this.

Specifically the original blog post stated INCORRECTLY one phrase from the article that I believe I screen scraped. But I’m human and possibly I just retyped it? I can’t verify as the link to the LA Times no longer works.

Regardless, Given no further proof, and the original link being broken, I must assume it is MY ERROR. I apologize Oscar.

I apologize thrice for incorrectly stating that Jacob Black had “died” from being shot 7 times in the back. The following link states Jacob is alive but paralyzed from the waste down. (source: https://www.npr.org/2020/08/25/905926959/jacob-blake-paralyzed-after-being-shot-in-the-back-by-the-police – but who knows how long that link will stay up.

All of my other thoughts in the above post still stand. I love the United States of America.

I am an independent and have voted in both primaries over the years (which is legal in Texas). I have supported and done web sites for candidates on both sides of the aisle, I worked very briefly on George W’s reelection campaign, I supported Obama, worked with Sylvia Garcia. And I’m proud to have helped John Culberson launch the first WordPress Website on the Whitehouse network when he was my representative. I believe all of the above politicians to be Patriotic and that they put country over party.

I, very unfortunately, have come to the conclusion that our current President does not understand or even have the mental capacity to occupy the office he currently holds. I do however pray (literally daily) that somehow he will step up to the task, gain the self confidence to lead this great country, and as he says “make America great again.” So far, my prayers remain unanswered. And that is why we have elections and a system for a peaceful transfer of power.

Given I don’t see Trump changing, I simply can’t remain silent and forever be on the wrong side of history as America’s hegemony slides away right before our eyes. The President needs to step up and lead, or just step aside.

Either option can be done with strength, honor and peacefully as is the American tradition.

But make no mistake about my allegiance or Patriotism. The President is our Commander in Chief, the Presidency is an Office, and I respect and would do my duty if called regardless of my concerns with his ability as a leader. My dedication to country is guaranteed because that’s how I was raised and that’s who I am.. WHOOOOP!

United Arab Emerates Officially Recognizes Israel

Part of my studies at Texas A&M University in College Station included a political science focus on China, Africa, and the Middle East. All three are incredibly fascinating.

It is from that historical perspective that I must congratulate President Trump for achieving a significant step towards stability in the Middle East and a safer path forward for the nation of Israel.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/uae-israel-deal-trump-s-first-genuine-foreign-policy-success-n1236769

I recognize there will be radicals on both sides who will use the “slippery slope” fallacy finding something negative in an Arab country recognizing Israel as a country. But I see the opposite.

For example, previously the Arab states didn’t have diplomatic relations with Israel. In denying that acknowledgement, it left the Arab states with little leverage to negotiate regarding what will hopefully be an acknowledged state of Palestine.

It won’t be easy, the path forward will be fraught with peril. But this has been the case in the Middle East since ‘67.

The first step towards peace, anywhere, is for people to communicate with words instead of bombs. UAE is taking a leadership role here, being the adults in the room, and acknowledging Israel as a peer. And communicating formally with respect.

I view, I predict, I am hopeful that years from now we will view this as a turning point in the never ending quest for peace in the Middle East.

Today I congratulate the Trump administration for being a part of the solution on this issue.