Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Last Call For Can You Hear Me Now?

Somebody's secretly eavesdropping on cell phones in the nation's capital, and nobody seems to know who it is.

The Department of Homeland Security has detected in the Washington area what appears to be the unauthorized use of a controversial technology that allows for the surreptitious surveillance of people’s cellphones — though it has not been able to pinpoint who or what is causing it, the department revealed in a letter released Tuesday
The technology, a cell-tower simulator commonly known as a StingRay, has been deployed for years by federal and local law enforcement to pinpoint suspects’ locations, though its unauthorized use in the Washington area raises fears that foreign adversaries might also be taking advantage of it to spy on U.S. citizens. 
The simulators work by tricking cellphones nearby to register with them, rather than normal cell towers. Once the device finds the phone it is seeking, it can pinpoint the phone’s location. Some versions of the technology can also be used to eavesdrop on calls. 
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) had asked the DHS whether it had detected foreign governments using the devices in the national capital region and elsewhere. The department’s revelation came in response to his request, though it had not “validated or attributed such activity to specific entities or devices,” officials said. It also did not provide any details on what was detected, other than to say it was “activity” consistent with the cell-tower simulator devices. 
The development was first reported by the Associated Press.

The odds of DHS not knowing who this is is approximately zero, I can't imagine a foreign government wouldn't want these all over the DC area. Hell, the problem is there's dozens of countries who are probably running StingRay tech out of their embassies just like we are in our diplomatic outposts around the world, so this may very well be a case of too many suspects and more than one actual culprit.

I mean hell this could be DC police doing this or some government security contractor.  It's like Clue, everyone in the room has a motive for offing Mr. Boddy.  I'd be shocked if DHS wasn't detecting such activity.

The real reason is why this would be admitted by DHS.  This isn't just a can of worms to be opened, this is an entire worm farm with a baker's dozen special on giant annelids the size of tie ropes.  DHS could have said "That's classified as hell" and moved on but they actually admitted it.

We'll see where this goes, again, nobody should have been surprised at this.  StingRay tech has been around for a decade or so.

Begun, These Trade Wars Have, Con't

I talked earlier this week about Trump's Trade War™ with China and what it meant to Ohio, and Greg Sargent at the Washington Post backs up the general notion that Trump country voters are the ones who will pay first.

According to multiple reports, people in agricultural communities are on edge over President Trump’s trade war with China. Now that China has retaliated against Trump’s tariffs by announcing its own tariffs on more than 100 American products, fears of a serious escalation are becoming more real by the moment, with stocks sliding and companies registering their objections over Trump’s actions to the White House.

New data supplied to me by the Brookings Institution show that agricultural communities are right to worry about what’s happening. But that’s not all: The data also show that other targeted industries should be worried as well. And it reveals that those who are vulnerable to negative impacts from these trade tensions are mostly concentrated in counties carried by Trump, though a lot of them are in counties carried by Hillary Clinton as well. 
The Brookings data constitute a granular geographic look at what Trump’s trade war with China might mean. It breaks down the numbers of jobs in the seven industries producing the products targeted by China’s retaliatory actions, which include fresh and dried fruit and nut farming, stainless steel pipes, pork products, modified ethanol, scrap aluminum and wineries.

It's gonna hurt rural voters the most, period.  Not all are in Trump states, but a lot did vote for him.

The Brookings analysis — which is based on proprietary EMSI and Bureau of Labor Statistics data — shows that the largest sum of vulnerable jobs is in fruit and nut farming, with the majority concentrated in Trump counties. Most of the jobs in hog and pig farming and pipe production are also concentrated in Trump country. It’s only in wineries where Clinton counties have the most jobs.

Trump has flatly dismissed any worries over an escalation, claiming that trade wars are “easy to win” even as he rails nonsensically about trade deficits as a form of national humiliation. Trump views his tariffs as weapons in a zero-sum struggle for dominance, with little regard to the real world impact such a battle could have.

The big losers: rural Oregon and Washington State, Iowa, Michigan's lake counties, and California wine country.

But remember, that was the $3 billion in tariffs the Chinese announced on Monday.  Today, the Chinese went all in with $50 billion in tariffs to call Trump's bluff once again.

China said it would levy an additional 25 percent tariff on imports of 106 U.S. products including soybeans, automobiles, chemicals and aircraft, in response to proposed American duties on its high-tech goods.

Matching the scale of proposed U.S. tariffs announced the previous day, the Ministry of Commerce in Beijing said the charges will apply to around $50 billion of U.S. imports
. Officials signaled that the implementation of the proposed measures will depend on when the U.S. applies its own after a period of public consultation.

The step ratchets up tension in a brewing trade war between the world’s two largest trading nations, with the Trump administration’s latest offensive based on alleged infringements of intellectual property in China. In targeting high-tech sectors that Beijing is openly trying to promote, the U.S. has provoked furious rhetoric from Beijing and stronger threats of retaliation than many had anticipated.

"China’s response was tougher than what the market was expecting -- investors didn’t foresee the country levying additional tariffs on sensitive and important products such as soybeans and airplanes," said Gao Qi, Singapore-based strategist at Scotiabank. "Investors believe a trade war will hurt both countries and their economies eventually."

More tariffs on both sides are coming.  Remember: Trump wants to eliminate nearly all of our $110 billion yearly trade deficit with China.   That's a lot of exports that will be harmed, and if you think inflation and the retail apocalypse is an issue now, wait until we're paying 25% higher prices on $50 billion plus in Chinese goods.

Bunker up, folks.  The economic disaster is coming.  If these tariffs go into effect on both sides, a lot of US jobs will go away in 2018, and it'll only be the beginning.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Don't look now, but Beto O'Rourke just might actually be able to beat Ted Cruz in November in Texas, and now we know O'Rourke already has got the money to do it.

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, raised over $6.7 million for his U.S. Senate bid in the first quarter of 2018, according to his campaign, a staggering number that poses a new category of threat to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz
The haul is easily O'Rourke's biggest fundraising quarter yet, more than double his next-closest total for a three-month period. It also is more than any Democratic Senate candidate nationwide took in last quarter, O'Rourke's campaign said. 
Cruz has not released his first-quarter fundraising numbers yet, but O'Rourke's $6.7 million total is on a different level than his previous hauls, which ranged from $1.7 million to $2.4 million. Those alone were good enough to outraise Cruz for three of the last four reporting periods. 
Furthermore, the $6.7 million total came from more than 141,000 contributions — another record-busting number for O'Rourke.

Ted Cruz has got to be terrified at this point.  He knows that he's in for the fight of his life, and he could actually lose.

"Campaigning in a grassroots fashion while raising more than $6.7 million from 141,000 contributions, we are the story of a campaign powered by people who are standing up to special interests, proving that we are more than a match and making it clear that Texans are willing to do exactly what our state and country need of us at this critical time," O'Rourke said in a statement.

O'Rourke's campaign released the fundraising statistics Tuesday morning ahead of the April 15 deadline to report it to the Federal Election Commission. Cruz has not offered any numbers for the full quarter, though he disclosed raising $803,000 through the first 45 days of the year — a fraction of O'Rourke's $2.3 million for the same timeframe. 
On Tuesday morning, O'Rourke's team did not volunteer its cash-on-hand figure, but the $6.7 million raised is likely to go a long way toward closing his deficit with Cruz in money to spend. As of mid-February, O'Rourke had $4.9 million in the bank to Cruz's $6 million. 
O'Rourke unveiled the $6.7 million figure on the second day of a three-day, 12-city trip by Cruz to mark the official start of his re-election campaign. O'Rourke is also hitting the road — he plans to hold town halls in 15 cities over the next six days.

At this point, Cruz's seat is in play.  It's something the Democrats absolutely need to win if they have any chance of taking the Senate in a year where they need two pickups while having to defend ten Trump state Senate seats, and again, tens of millions of dollars are going to be spent by the GOP to knock out Jon Tester, Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McCaskill, Joe Manchin, and Joe Donnelly.

But guess what?  Ted Cruz is far from the only big name Republican in trouble whose Democratic challenger is raising big bucks to take them on.

The top Democrat challenging Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) raised $2.1 million during the first quarter of 2018, his campaign announced on Monday. 
Randy Bryce’s campaign said it has raised $4.75 million since last June and has nearly $2.3 million in cash on hand. 
The campaign also said it added 45,000 new donors since the beginning of the year.

Bryce’s bid to unseat Ryan in Wisconsin's 1st District began last June with a fundraising campaign that netted more than $100,000 in its first 24 hours. 
The ironworker raised $1 million in the third quarter of 2017 and had raised approximately $2.7 million by the end of 2017, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Randy Bryce has a much tougher battle than O'Rourke does, if you can believe that a Democrat in Texas has a better shot of winning than a Wisconsin one.  But Paul Ryan is the most prolific fundraiser in DC.  He raised an obscene $44 million last year and gave most of it to the RNC.  He's fighting Bryce with his pocket change and leftovers, and that's still tens of million of dollars.

Randy's going to need your help too. 

It's great if they win, but it can't come at the expense of the seats we already have in hand.  If we can hold the line here, we can finish off the GOP in 2020 and 2022.  Let's make sure we can keep the seats we do have in the House and Senate.


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