National Intelligence Bulletin for 17 August 2018

The National Intelligence Bulletin is a weekly look at national security, domestic systems disruption, the risk of failing critical infrastructure, and threats to social, political, economic, and financial stability in the United States. This report is available each week for Intelligence subscribers.

 

In this National Intelligence Bulletin… (2,119 words)

  • InFocus: What Alex Jones, Robert Spencer, Dennis Prager, and Stefan Molyneux have in common
  • Hackers could target U.S. agriculture through irrigation systems
  • NYT reports growing dependence on subsidies
  • For Democrats, socialism is now more popular than capitalism
  • Broward PBA calls for boycott of Miami Dolphins
  • DOJ’s Rosenstein outlines plan to increase gang enforcement
  • Weekly Economic Wrap-Up
  • And more…

 

ADMIN NOTE: The National Intelligence Bulletin is going through a rest and refit period this week as I train a new analyst.

InFocus: A few things happened this week in the tech and social media spaces that carry with them series implications. It’s nothing new, per se, but we did see an increase this week. You may have heard by now that Alex Jones was booted off Facebook, Apple (podcasts), Spotify, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube, but there are three other conservative voices who received punitive action this week, which should be cause for alarm.

First, let’s tackle Alex Jones. He’s said some pretty uncouth things, but he’s undeniably been a culture warrior for the Trump administration since the 2016 campaign. For tech and social media companies in Silicon Valley, that’s where he went wrong. Apple still allows users to listen to podcasts called “Revolutionary Left Radio” and “The Guillotine,” run by revolutionary communists in America who’ve promoted the idea of bringing back the guillotine for U.S. political leaders, yet the InfoWars podcast has been removed. (And that’s not to mention all the revolutionary communist and violent antifascist accounts that remain on Facebook and Twitter, despite clearly violating the terms of service.)

This week, Robert Spencer — not to be confused with Alt-Right’s Richard Spencer — was removed from Patreon (a crowdsourcing platform). Robert Spencer is the Jewish man behind the website Jihad Watch, which tracks the daily instances of jihad against the West. Spencer received a message from Patreon saying that Mastercard had forced the removal of Spencer’s account. As such, Spencer is no longer able to use the platform to collect his supporter’s donations for his work. [source]

Also this week, Stefan Molyneux, the Canadian philosopher and host of Freedomain Radio, received a strike warning from YouTube over a video about the “decline in life expectancy to white males in America”, which was a “violation of community guidelines” according to YouTube. The next day, Molyneux received a second strike over another video. YouTube has a three-strike policy where channels are permanently banned after the third strike. Molyneux has 829,000 subscribers on YouTube and each of his videos receive tens of thousands of views the day they’re published. [source]

Finally, just today, conservative talk show host Dennis Prager posted images of his Facebook page, Prager University (which has three million subscribers), showing that his last nine posts had reached zero of the page’s followers. Additionally, two of PragerU’s videos had been removed by Facebook after being declared “hate speech”. Fact check: there was no hate speech on PragerU. [source]

Each of these events follows two years of criticism of how social media companies treat conservatives, the activities of which go back to at least 2016 when Facebook was discovered to be censoring conservative accounts and pages. And there was the Twitter shadow banning and seemingly arbitrary removal of conservative accounts on nearly every social media platform despite no violations of the terms of service.

We know what Big Tech thinks of conservatives and the Second Amendment. (This social media stuff also follows years of banks cancelling and denying services to gun manufacturers.) One alternative, and I’m not necessarily promoting this idea, is treating Facebook and Twitter as monopolies and breaking them up. (In fact, there’s already a left wing campaign to break up Facebook, believe it or not, called Freedom from Facebook.) This is what Big Tech and social media companies do in the Age of Trump, and it begs the question how much more successful will they be in silencing voices on the Right once the Right is no longer in power? Furthermore, will we see mainstream efforts to realign “Freedom of Speech” more closely to what Canada or the United Kingdom have, where criticizing Islam is an arrestable offense?

The Left and Right, more so than at any time since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and 70s, is in a period of protracted culture war. I even go so far as to say that we’re already in a domestic conflict, although it has not been as violent as it could or might be.

My specific concern is that the fight is no longer contained in just the political space, but it now affects the commercial and financial space, as well. Corporate activism is growing as corporations align their commercial interests with their political interests, whatever the cost. Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz said he didn’t want the business of conservatives. Camping World’s Marcus Lemonis (“don’t shop at my business”), Goldman Sach’s Lloyd Blankfein, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Apple’s Tim Cook, and a host of other activist CEOs have politicized their corporations, prioritized their personal politics over that of their commercial interests, or otherwise used their commercial interests to push a Leftist agenda.

The Left has made hay over the fascist threat posed by President Trump, but in reality, the collusion between America’s large and growing corporate power, the mainstream media, and the Democratic Party certainly gives the president a run for his money. – S.C.


Priority Intelligence Requirements

PIR1: What are the new indicators of systems disruption and threats to critical infrastructure?

PIR2: What are the new indicators of potentially disruptive social, cultural or political conditions or events?

PIR3: How are state and federal agencies preparing for domestic conflict, emergencies, or other instability?

PIR4: What are the new indicators of systems disruption and threats to the economic or financial industry?


 

PIR1: What are the new indicators of systems disruption and threats to critical infrastructure?

Hackers could target U.S. agriculture through irrigation systems

According to researchers, hackers could target agricultural infrastructure by simply hacking sprinklers that are controlled via the internet. In order to drain one average water tower, hackers would need to control 1,355 sprinklers. In order to empty a reservoir, they would need 23,866 sprinklers. The researchers focused on the three main internet-connected irrigation controllers: GreenIQ, Rainmachine, and BlueSpray. All three of these companies use unencrypted connections with their irrigation platforms, which make hacking easier. [source] Analyst Comment: This threat may seem a bit outlandish, however, it does show how vulnerable many internet-facing systems are to cyber exploitation. As we move further into the era of the Internet-of-Things, we do risk more disruption due to a lack of cyber security.


 

PIR2: What are the new indicators of potentially disruptive social, cultural or political conditions or events?

NYT reports growing dependence on subsidies

Two maps published by the New York Times illustrate growing dependence on government programs based on percentage of personal income. The maps compare 1979 with 2014 (below), and show large concentrations growing in rural areas, particularly in Appalachia. [source]

For Democrats, socialism is now more popular than capitalism

A new Gallup poll out this week shows that Democrats now have more positive views for socialism (57 percent) than for capitalism (47 percent). Between 2016 and 2018, Democrats reported a sharp drop in their positive views of capitalism, which fell from 58 percent for 47 percent. According to historical data from Gallup, between 1937 and 1948, just one percent of Americans identified as socialist. [source] Analyst Comment: The sharp drop in support for capitalism likely has to do with the rise of Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Socialist Party.

Broward PBA calls for boycott of Miami Dolphins

It’s football season again, which means more protests in the National Football League. The Broward County Police Benevolent Association and southern Florida police officers are set to boycott the Miami Dolphins and the National Football League following a preseason game where two Dolphins players knelt and one raised his fist in protest. The Association is recommending that its members call for a refund, but also report that they would reconsider if the league’s policy changes. [source]

 


 

PIR3: How are state and federal agencies preparing for domestic conflict, emergencies, or other instability?

DOJ’s Rosenstein outlines plan to increase gang enforcement

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein recently delivered a speech concerning gangs across the Carolinas. Rosenstein remarks that the fear of police stems from situations when “do not stop motorists to congratulate them for obeying traffic laws, and nobody calls 911 to report that everything is OK.” The Department of Justice has created an office to solely aid state and local law enforcement. More than 85% of law enforcement works at the local level. However; between 2014 and 2016, violent crime rose 7% while murder rates rose 20%. Increased gang violence over years has contributed to violent crime and drug trafficking. The Department of Justice is looking to hire 300 new Assistant U.S. Attorneys. The focus for law enforcement around the country has been limiting gang violence and activity in local areas. Ultimately, crime reduction is the goal across the country and that starts with the conviction of current criminals. [source]


 

PIR4: What are the new indicators of systems disruption and threats to the economic or financial industry?

Economic/Financial Wrap-up

– After new U.S. sanctions against Russia went into effect, the Russians responded by announcing plans to sell its holdings in U.S. securities. Russian prime minister Dmirty Medvedev warned that new sanctions about be considered “economic warfare” last week, and now Russia’s finance minister says, “We have lowered to the minimum level and will further decrease our investment in the U.S. economy, in the U.S. securities,” referring to U.S. Treasury bonds. [source]

– The U.S. labor force is getting older. The graph below shows that there will be fewer 16-24 year olds in the workforce through 2026, while the 55-64 and 65-74 age demos will be growing. This is one trend behind the reports that Social Security won’t be able to meet its full obligations by 2034. Based on projected tax revenue, Social Security will pay out only 77 percent of its obligations unless a solution is found. [source]

– The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index recently hit a high not seen since 1983, showing that small businesses in America are hiring and selling more products.

– Household debt has nearly doubled since 2004, from just over $2 trillion to nearly $4 trillion in the first quarter of this year. Much of that debt is in student loans, which is now a $1 trillion problem. My concern is that during the next recession we have a significant number of current or former students unable or unwilling to pay back students loans. Student loan debt can’t be discharged in bankruptcy court, so this will become a much larger political issue.

– Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow appeared in the U.S. media this week, saying that he expects another quarter of four percent economic growth. Saying that the economy was “very strong,” Kudlow predicted that November’s mid-terms will be referendum on the economy and expects the GOP will keep the House and Senate. Third quarter economic numbers come out in late October.

-Additionally, Kudlow said that President Trump’s team was working on a bilateral trade agreement with Mexico and that the situation with the European Union will be sorted out, which is putting pressure on China. He says, “China right now is struggling with a bad economy, a terrible currency, and to be honest with you, in 30 or 60 days China might find themselves very isolated in the world trade game.” This is something I pointed out in last week’s Strategic Intelligence Summary; read here.

– The 10-year Treasury yield is still close to the 2-year Treasury rate. As of this morning, the 10-year sits at 2.87 percent; the 2-year is at 2.6 percent. Economists point to the correlation between a crossover of the two and a recession. When investors are more fearful of the next two years, driving up the 2-year rate, than the next 10 years, that’s when we start looking at recession territory. We’re not there yet, but the yield curve is flattening.

– In Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, economic advisor Larry Kudlow said that GDP growth for the first half of this year came in at 3.1 percent, and it was 4.1 percent in the second quarter. Kudlow cited Atlanta Federal Reserve data which is right now predicting 4.3 percent growth in the third quarter, and said “it’s a very realistic estimate’. The Blue Chip Consensus, according to the Atlanta Fed, is just above three percent growth for Q3.

– In the same meeting, President Trump asks Kudlow how the Chinese economy is doing. Kudlow replies: “[T]heir economy is just heading south. Retail sales, business — business investment is collapsing in China, according to the numbers. Industrial production has fallen and now is plateauing at a low level. People are selling the currency; there may be some manipulation. But mostly, I think investors are moving out of China because they don’t like the economy, and they’re coming to the USA because they like our economy.”

– Also during the Cabinet meeting, President Trump directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to begin suing opioid manufacturers if they violated the law and contributed to the opioid crisis. President Trump wants federal lawsuits in addition to some states suing those companies.

 

// END REPORT

S.C.

Samuel Culper is a former military intelligence NCO and contract Intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

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