New Update At GiveSendGo

For a couple of days there was worried they were going to have to open me up again. Glad no on that, but really would like to know what is going on. Update posted at GiveSendGo.

*****

If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Rumors Of Rumors

Sorry to be away for a bit, but been interesting medically. Some good, some we don’t know, but interesting.

Right now, in the media and in chatter coming out of Russia, there are rumors of rumors of rumors. The Gotterdammerung group is back at it, in public and in private, pledging to bathe the world in nuclear fire rather than admit defeat in the Ukraine. Hearing some interesting but unverified/unverifiable things about why such talk dropped off so much after 9 May.

There are rumors Vladimir is in surgery, already had it and used staged footage to hide it, has yet to have the surgery, take your pick. About the only thing I haven’t heard is that he is dead and one of his body doubles has stepped in while Patrushev runs things. Would be amazed if someone in Russia or the West didn’t claim such. As for the claim that Vladimir will end up in a sanitarium by 2023, well, he might for all of about five minutes. Once out of power he has the life of a mayfly at best.

The only thing that is verifiable is that Vladimir seems to be going as all in as he can on taking Eastern Ukraine. He would like to take more, plans to take more, but a lot of people still don’t seem to get that he no longer has the Red Army, more the Dead Army or the Potemkin Army. That said, there are enough resources to accomplish this if they can be brought to together. If they can’t and/or the Ukrainians continue to fight smart the Russian military will not just be defeated but gutted to an extent well beyond Vladimir’s worst nightmares.

In some ways, they are already there. Look at all the civilian trucks and vehicles brought in not just for logistics, but to replace military ambulances and a host of other military vehicles. Also, look for a lot more stories like this, as there seems to be a continuing array of disasters that may reflect a sizable chunk of the Russian population rather than Ukrainian sabotage. Whenever one of these ‘one big plants’ goes up, it is an unmitigated disaster for Russia. There is already quiet chatter that the loss of the chemical plant earlier is having a far greater effect than anyone in the Russian government wants to admit.

Until some of this shakes out further, it is hard to say what will happen on the strategic level long term. There is a lot of chatter out of Russia and the Kremlin, but trying to figure out what is real, or what is real but slanted and how/why, is interesting. Unless something happens to sideline Vladimir, I see him pushing on and trying to grab as much as he can, and to escalate things as far as he can. The larger question is, what will happen when he tries and how will his own people and troops respond, esp. as there are multiple units in an effective state of mutiny right now.

Meantime, for both micro and macro combat information and analysis, as well as just good general coverage, check out:

Evergreen Intel, The Institute for the Study of War, Trent Telenko, Kamil Galeev, Amelia Smith, Jomeni of the West, OSINTtechnical, Liveuamap, OSINTdefender, and Stephen Green at both Instapundit and VodkaPundit. Start with those, and you will soon spot some others.

More soon.

Some Previous Posts:

Vladimir And The Ukraine

Answers, Ramblings, And A Bit More On Vladimir And The Ukraine

Your Must Read For The Day On Russia

The Puzzles In Play, And The Missing Pieces

Quick Thoughts On Ukraine/Putin

The Thing Behind The Curtain

Missing Pieces And Surprise Pieces

Thursday Update

Not A Lot To Add

Noted

Monday Update

Burn Notice

Accuracy, Reliability, And More

Putin, Trump, And The Coming Storm

Three Futures For Russia

Quick Thoughts

Saturday Update

Mismatched Locomotives

War, Ag, Demographics, And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Past, Present, And A Hungry Future

Huge Grain Of Salt

The Moskva

Retribution Inbound

Uncertainty And Preparation

Honest Question

Monday Morning Quick Brief

War Of The Memes

A Little Free Ice Cream

Rumors Of War

Three Times Is…

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Moldova

Going Nuclear

How To Spy On The Russians

Here’s Hoping I’m Wrong

Pins And Needles Time

Mock Away

Intel Wars

The Revenge Of HUMINT

A Funny Thing Happened

*****

If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Regarding the upcoming food crisis

This post is preamble: a long, potentially annoying infodump that serves as background for future posts that may actually be worth something.

And before I go too far, I’ll note one major problem: I’m no expert. I’ve only recently (late 2021) started watching this stuff, so you can’t really trust me. But I promise that I will only post things that come from those who know much more than I do.


I’ve been talking about the impending food crisis since late last year, when the early signs started to rise. The more time went by, the wider the circle with whom I shared my concerns. These discussions were part of the reason our Laughing Lupine host asked if I wanted to blog here.

Now the politicos and money managers have caught on, which means my opinions might not add significant benefit: Once they’re talking about it, the signs are too obvious for additional commentary to matter much.

That said, if we look at the signs that existed prior to their late entry into the conversation (late March 2022), we might see other things that they’re slow to see, and that might help us see farther than they are. It could also help us understand what not to believe among the fearmongers out there; I have a future post in mind on that topic.

To get this issue out of the way early, I think it’s unlikely that we’ll see a civilization-ending catastrophe, and all bets are off if we do. But meat, grain, and vegetable farming is a long-term project that has annual cycles, and this annual cycle is starting off really bad, which means it may be too late to counteract any price increases that are likely to come. Some of that will be mitigated by farmers shifting to different crops (e.g., soybeans vs. corn), so rather than outright hunger we’ll just see shortages of common goods.

But either way, I expect consumer spending to be curtailed quite a bit as we see significant spikes in food prices. We’re already starting to see Target and Walmart suffer massive stock market losses because their margins have been cut in half, at least partly because people are spending more on low-margin groceries and less on high-margin products such as electronics. (And some foodstuffs, corn in particular, are used in a lot more things than just food, but I’m getting ahead of myself.) I find it odd that sites like MarketWatch recognize the “shift” in consumer spending without relating that to margin:

Walmart noted the impact of inflation on grocery pulled sales away from other categories as low-to-middle income shoppers are cutting back on non-essentials, resulting in overall flat transactions year-over-year.

MarketWatch, May 19, 2022

When your margin on grocery is something like 2% and your margin on other categories is something like twice that, your margins get cut when people spend more on groceries even if you have “overall flat transactions year-over-year.”

But this is already getting long, and I’m just winding up. So let’s go back some months. I’m going to start in January, though the signs were there before then.


The first thing I saw, which people in normal media weren’t discussing, was massive, unrelenting increases in the inputs to food. Not just price increases for today’s food, which does get media attention, but the cost increases for fertilizers and livestock feed necessary to get next year’s food to market. These things are priced into our higher 2022 prices by now, but I don’t believe they’re fully priced into late 2022 through late 2023 prices yet. That means we could see significant price spikes even from our current high prices.

First, watch the first 90 seconds or so of this video from January 3, 2022. The video isn’t about the problem, but boy does it show it.


The most recent Ag Economy Barometer from Purdue University study says the following:

Texas A&M economists found heading into spring planting, fertilizer prices are up 80% compared to 2021, and in some cases, farmers are seeing certain fertilizer prices more than double what they saw last year. But for the report, AFPC was conservative in its estimate, using a 50% increase in fertilizer costs.

Note: A conservative estimate is a 50% increase in fertilizer costs.

It’s not just climbing fertilizer prices that pose a problem for producers, either. It’s also availability that’s an issue for farmers still trying to source inputs for 2022. The study showed 40% of farmers had some difficulty purchasing inputs for the 2022 season.


The agriculture department expects the costs to raise crops and livestock will grow 5.1% to $411.6 billion over the 2021 figure, with the price of fertilizer climbing 12% and for livestock feed, 6.1%. This year’s expected hike in expenses comes on top of a 9.4% increase last year, the forecast said.

Lillibridge, however, said the increases he’s seeing are far greater. He said his fertilizer costs are up 300% and the costs of herbicides, pesticides and other crop protection products are up 100% to 150%….

Farmers have a lot on their minds going into the next growing seasons, he said. In addition to higher production costs, Iowa farmers are concerned about whether they’ll have equipment and parts next season, given supply-chain issues, and remain concerned about the possibility of a drought.

Iowa and large parts of the Midwest struggled with drought conditions last year. Many farmers said they received rain just in time to preserve crop yields.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report, released Thursday, showed almost 55% of Iowa experiencing abnormally dry or moderate drought conditions in the week ending Feb. 1. That was up from about 52% the previous week and about 48% a year ago.

“It probably wouldn’t take much for us to drop back into a drought,” Lillibridge said.

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2022/02/06/2022-farm-income-expected-fall-production-fertilizer-feed-costs-rise/6665786001/

This is ZeroHedge, which tends to have a lot of hype, but the key fact of the article — that Tesco’s CEO said that “the worst is yet to come” — is true. This is in the UK, but I don’t think we’re so disconnected that we won’t also see issues here.


This article came out before the Canadian trucker protests that further disrupted supply chains.

Key statement: “Several larger feedlots have indicated that they will run out of all feed in a few days.”

That’s food insecurity for 1.5 million cattle. I didn’t hear about mass cattle starvation since then, but there shouldn’t even be a question that there would be sufficient food at a reasonable price. This is Canada, but again, the ripple effects aren’t minimal.

Elevators working in reverse as Alberta cattle feeders face increasingly desperate feed shortage.

“It’s a mess,” notes Kevin Serfas, of Serfas Farms, based at Turin, Alta. “If you only bought exactly what you needed on a week-to-week basis, you are in panic mode right now. I started November 1 and probably have half my orders. I’m not sure what needs to change. Everyone just blames the prior link in the chain.”

That chain includes grain companies, railways and railways, as well as trucking companies.

In some cases, grain handlers, such as Cargill, P&H, Richardson, and Viterra, are essentially trying to run their elevators in reverse. Rather than taking delivery from producers and loading grain onto trains, they are taking delivery of corn by train and transferring it onto trucks to fill sales contracts they’ve signed with cattle feeders — many of which are the same producers who otherwise sell grain to these companies.

Labour shortages, due to COVID-19 and more, have exacerbated the challenge in some situations, causing delays with loading and unloading trains and trucks. Several feedlots say delays in unloading trains have resulted in the railway putting a lower priority on these shipments. In some cases, they’ve been penalized financially with demurrage fees. [The guy who pointed this out to me commented: Stunning that the railway can simply stop shipping animal feed.]

There’s also concern the Canadian and U.S. government’s cross-border vaccination mandates, taking effect January 15 and 22, respectively, are removing a significant number of truck drivers from the road. Several sources told RealAgriculture they’ve also heard of a train being delayed due to crew members not wanting to have to quarantine in Canada.

To put the amount of feed that’s needed in context, ACFA says one rail car — the equivalent of approximately two super B trailers — will feed approximately 8,000 head of cattle for one day. There are approximately 1.5 million head in the province, meaning the industry requires more than a 100 unit train every day to replace the barley and wheat that would normally be sourced closer to home.


…and here’s a follow-up. Something to consider: Farmers need to make a profit, and even if they can produce something, that doesn’t mean they will if they can’t be sure that they’ll make money on it.


Something completely different: There have been a tremendous number of birds killed because of (not by) the avian flu this year — last I looked, something like 28,000,000. Note the German egg problem below, which wasn’t related to the bird flu.


From Thursday, 3/17:

This article about pigs is from the UK, but the principle is the same everywhere:

  • Fertilizer and other inputs to grains have gone through the roof
  • Grains are now going through the roof as a result
  • Meat and other animal products (milk, in this case) will go through the roof as the growing season continues

So while people are talking about Ukrainian grain, we should also be talking about meat, dairy, leather, and other animal products.


Also from the UK, in March.

“But we also usually apply a liquid fertiliser in the spring. Last year that cost us £5,600, but the quote last week was for £17,000.”

https://www.fwi.co.uk/business/markets-and-trends/input-prices/farmers-feeling-pressure-as-ukraine-war-sends-costs-soaring

Andersons’ own calculation of input costs shows that “agflation” has been rising at 10% a year in recent months, compared with 5.5% for the more general consumer prices index, and is expected to surge further ahead as the effect of the war in Ukraine is felt.

“The world has changed,” says Andersons partner and consultant Michael Haverty. “The Ukraine crisis has put renewed upwards pressure on everything, but especially fuel, fertiliser and animal feed.

“Whether any of this can be recouped by farmers depends on the extent to which consumers are able to pay more for their food,” he suggests.

…The real hike in costs is likely to hit the following season, Mr King suggests, with Loam Farm [one of four model farsm used for forecasting] forecast to see its margin from production drop from £325/ha in 2022 to just £30/ha, as variable costs climb another 36% while overheads reach £500/ha.

…The projections for Meadow Farm – a notional 154ha farm with suckler cows, finishers, sheep and arable, producing grain for livestock – suggest production margins will fall from a small profit of £31/ha in 2021-22 to a hefty loss of £202/ha in 2022-21.

The outlook is just as bleak for Uplands Farm – a 300ha beef and sheep holding with 90 spring-calving sucklers and 800 ewes in the north of England.

Even with 2021-22’s buoyant prices, the farm is projected to make a small loss on its farming practices while, for next year, a steep rise in feed, fuel and fertiliser is expected to push this loss to £165/ha.

https://www.fwi.co.uk/business/markets-and-trends/input-prices/ukraine-war-to-squeeze-farm-margins-as-input-inflation-bites

My interpretation: If inputs are already that expensive, and margins are already that low, and outputs are expected to drop, then either the cost of food will dramatically (like 2x in some areas of the world, not the paltry 10% we’ve been seeing) over the next year or two, or there simply won’t be enough food available in some parts of the world as farmers drop out of the business and see their farms repossessed, or both.


Russia and China both stopped exporting fertilizer earlier this year.

“Russia is a major, major exporter across all of the major fertilizers,” says Linville. “Urea, they account for 14% of the global export total. UAN has been anywhere from 25% to 31% the last couple of years. Phosphate 10%. They are almost 20% of the global operating potash capacity of the entire world. They’re a big deal. Losing Russian exports is a very big deal. I don’t care where you are in the earth, it matters to you.”

However, even with Russia pulling off the world market, it still doesn’t create a “worst-case scenario” for fertilizer availability and prices. Linville says China holds the card for that scenario as Russia and China combined account for 40% to 45% of total global phosphate production.

“We are still working with the idea that China is going to come back to the export market in June of this year. If China steps out and says what you’re doing to Russia is like an attack on us, we are going to attack we’re going to take over Taiwan, we start to do the same thing to China, the rest of the world has done to Russia, then it gets worse than where we’re at today,” says Linville.

https://www.agweb.com/news/policy/politics/if-you-think-fertilizer-prices-are-bad-now-heres-why-china-could-make

This is a Google translation, so forgive its awkwardness. This is also about Germany, not North America, but we’re all connected. This is the opening hal of the article:

The German egg industry speaks of “red alert”. Against the background of massively restricted supply chains and dramatic cost increases, especially for animal feed, the Federal Egg Association is sending an urgent wake-up call to politicians and the food retail trade.

From summer 2022 at the latest , the supply of eggs can no longer be guaranteed, writes the Central Association of the German Poultry Industry.

“Sheer existential fear” among farmers

The latest developments on the global agricultural market are bringing the German egg industry to its knees.

“There is sometimes sheer existential fear among our farmers. The prices for animal feed have more than doubled in a very short time. GMO-free soy is hard to come by. As a result, many keepers are no longer able to re-stall,” Henner Schönecke, Chairman of the BVEi, describes the situation.

No more restocking means fewer laying hens are available to lay eggs. Schönecke expects that the security of supply with German eggs can no longer be guaranteed by August at the latest.

https://www-epochtimes-de.translate.goog/politik/deutschland/deutsche-eier-versorgung-a, sommer-nicht-mehr-gesichert-a3765818.html?telegram=1&_x_tr_sl=de&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp

This is a lot of stuff, and there’s more I could post — this isn’t even the most paranoid stuff out there, by far — but I’ll stop. This selection is reasonable information from respected publications, not click-bait doomsayers. I haven’t even gotten into the weather issues we’ve had, where the western part of the US is in drought, the east has been too cold and wet to plant, and as a result of that (among other things!) we’ve had late crops, bad crops, and reduced expected yields. I’m understating the level of problems we’ve seen.

This information was all available before the mainstream press started talking about a food crisis. The first time I noticed a mainstream article citing a significant politician was in late March, when the UK environment secretary talked about a 30% increase in the cost of chicken. There were a lot of warning signs before then.

Some things have already been overcome. Some of the Canadian rail issues have been resolved. Bayer seems to have resolved its early glysophate problems. And America makes an incredible amount of food, a lot of which gets wasted, so I don’t see us going hungry.

But I expect significant price increases here, and even lack of availability elsewhere. And where there’s lack of food availability — hunger — there’s unrest. We needed bumper crops to get over the issues we were already facing, and it got worse with the Ukraine invasion. We’re not getting a bumper crop. There will be issues.

Gotta go. If you want drill-down on anything, let me know and I’ll tell you what I know so far.


Too stupid to govern

Can we survive governance that has no rational basis?

“The right to privacy that forms the basis of Roe is the same right to privacy that protects…the right to marry the person you love…”

Vice President Kamala Harris

[Marriage:] the state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law

Merriam-Webster

Marriage, as a state recognized by law, is an inherently public institution.

Who knew that the right to privacy protects the right to participate in a public institution?

Another Quick Update

Earlier this week, I had a test/procedure done both to confirm one diagnosis and to rule out two other possibilities. It required some preparation, which may have had an unfortunate consequence.

That said, I’m happy to report that all of the samples collected came back negative for cancer. The original diagnosis was confirmed and while a pain (literal as well as figurative), it beats the alternative.

The prep, however, may have caused an issue or two on the cardiac side. We are monitoring, hoping that what is going on is temporary, and that nothing else is trying to rear its head. Since being hit by lightning, its seemed like my health was a descending quantum cascade with anything that had the possibility of going wrong was doing so. It is a huge relief to find out that in every area we’ve tested, I am at least clear of cancer.

I want to thank everyone who has donated to my fundraiser, and special thanks to the recent series of anonymous donors who have taken a huge weight off my shoulders with their generosity. I’m almost clear medically to move, now need to get enough to rent a place and get moved. Thank you all so very much for your support, prayers, and messages of encouragement!

*****

If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

The benefits of being hated

It’s reasonable to start off well-disposed to a public figure if he’s hated by the right people.

New guy here. You might see me post on an eclectic mix of things, so it’s a little tough to know where to start. Since I have to start somewhere, though, it will be with this ditty I sent to a liberal friend to explain why his hatred for a politician was so useful to me.


It’s reasonable to start off well-disposed to a public figure if he’s hated by the right people.

I’ve been told too many times that I have “the final solution” for a problem, that I want to subjugate women, that I hate black people and want white people to run America, that I hate poor people and just want to raise more illiterates for the maw of corporate machines, that I’m both so ignorant and hateful that I’m irredeemable, and so on. And I mean all of this literally; I’ve been told these things about myself. Not by friends who know me, but by friends of friends who apparently believe they do.

Since I’m described this way even though I’m not evil, and my own experience shows that most people aren’t evil, it’s reasonable to guess that most other people who are described this way also aren’t evil.

Given that, it makes sense to ignore public figures who aren’t hated enough – Dr. Oz in PA, for example – because they’re probably somewhere pretty far away on the ideological spectrum. Even if they’re nominally conservative or Republican, they don’t think the way I do about the issues.

On the other hand, it makes a lot of sense to start off with a good disposition toward someone who is strongly hated by “the right people”. If most of the media-political-academic establishment wants to destroy a public figure, then he’s either like me (the large majority of them) or an actually bad person (a small minority of them). I can use media hatred as a starting point to evaluate whether those public figures have earned their hatred by being good, or they deserve their hatred because they’re actually bad.


Nice to meet you all, and I’ll see you again shortly.

A Funny Thing Happened

After my phone was tapped by the KGB as discussed in this post. Well, funny to me though I suspect it wasn’t to some others.

I was finishing up school in Chicago at the time of my brush with the KGB (and possibly the GRU). The cold war was still dragging on, and most Soviet intelligence operations were being run out of the Polish Consulate on Lakeshore Drive. How do I know this? Well, maybe some of my new “friends” might have mentioned something. Maybe it’s because of a story done by one of the local television stations.

As it turns out, they had been covertly following and taping the Chief of Station as he did his job. They had video of his meeting with people, picking up stuff, heck, they may have even caught him working dead letter drops. The thing is, they had done this for a year without detection. A. Year.

When the expose ran, it is fair to say that the excrement hit the rotary impeller. There was damage to operations, covers were apparently blown, and despite the frantic claims from the consulate that nothing was being done from there everyone knew there was. Needless to say, the Chief of Station (I forget what title he officially held) was recalled.

This was all going on about the time I was graduating and getting ready to leave. Having finished up my photographic internship at Playboy, I decided to walk from the North Side to downtown, and grab some stock shots of the city. It was a pleasant day, a nice walk, and I was getting some at least average city shots. As I came down along the lakeshore, I saw the Polish Consulate and decided to grab a photo or two of it.

As I was doing so, a vehicle pulled in and several people got out. In the middle of the group was the Chief of Station. He looked over, saw me taking photographs, and rather energetically flipped me off. Several times. He may have said something as well, but I couldn’t make it out. I waved as he went inside, then resumed my walk.

Several of us figured he was about to take a bullet to the back of the head (if you watched The Americans, Nina’s execution is remarkably accurate) once he was home. I actually felt a little bit sorry for him on some level, while the rest of me was just a touch gleeful at the whole thing (which may have splashed a bit of egg on some three letter agencies too). I heard years later that they didn’t shoot him, and am sorta glad.

All that said, I got a good laugh out of his reaction that day. He was the man in charge of tapping my phone, possibly bugging the apartment, and coordinating some of the other things that went on (apparently). It felt good to piss him off for a change, since his operations had pissed me off while they were happening.

Just a bit of memory that surfaced that I decided to share. With the test/procedure tomorrow, there may not be a post. Will see how it goes. Please do consider helping me get out of here by hitting the tip jar or the fundraiser.

Some Previous Posts:

Vladimir And The Ukraine

Answers, Ramblings, And A Bit More On Vladimir And The Ukraine

Your Must Read For The Day On Russia

The Puzzles In Play, And The Missing Pieces

Quick Thoughts On Ukraine/Putin

The Thing Behind The Curtain

Missing Pieces And Surprise Pieces

Thursday Update

Not A Lot To Add

Noted

Monday Update

Burn Notice

Accuracy, Reliability, And More

Putin, Trump, And The Coming Storm

Three Futures For Russia

Quick Thoughts

Saturday Update

Mismatched Locomotives

War, Ag, Demographics, And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Past, Present, And A Hungry Future

Huge Grain Of Salt

The Moskva

Retribution Inbound

Uncertainty And Preparation

Honest Question

Monday Morning Quick Brief

War Of The Memes

A Little Free Ice Cream

Rumors Of War

Three Times Is…

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Moldova

Going Nuclear

How To Spy On The Russians

Here’s Hoping I’m Wrong

Pins And Needles Time

Mock Away

Intel Wars

The Revenge Of HUMINT

*****

If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

The Revenge Of HUMINT

In yesterday’s post, I talked a bit about the push in the US to get away from human intelligence (HUMINT) because it truly is messy, as well as being offensive to Jimmy Carter’s sense of morality. Instead, the US went all-in on technology, which became National Technical Means (NTM) and is now apparently referred to as NRO Overhead Systems (NOS).

Now, satellites and other technical means can get you a lot of data. You can count ships, planes, and tanks; you can see structures being built; and, you can watch for movements and activities. However, there are strong limitations to satellites and related, and they don’t give you context to go with what you see. Which is why you need other means, including HUMINT.

Today, we have an unprecedented amount of information at our fingertips. Open-source intel groups do some fantastic work. There are websites and apps that track almost every aircraft in the air around the world. There are others that track ships, trains, and about any form of transportation you can imagine. Commercial overhead imagery is better than what aircraft and satellite cameras got early on.

Then, you add in professional and social media, plus the World Wide Web, and you have a situation that if it is not information overload, it is not far from it. Instead of frantic efforts to find out about a unit and maybe get a hint of its commander, you go to the unit’s website and get pretty much it’s complete order of battle. From social media, you can find out about morale and how things are going (hint: lower enlisted everywhere in the world are prone to bitching about things, they just now do it online as well as in the chow line). You may even find a professional writing by the commander, as well as his own social media posts. Thank you internet and computer technology!

But, all of that technology has thrown you right back into the HUMINT trap. Is that Pvt. Ivanabitchconstantly a real private, or disinformation? Is the information being posted by a “reputable source” online accurate, precise, or highly biased? Motivation matters as it tends to skew what is being posted.

As a quick aside, information tends to be either accurate, precise, or biased/bogus. When I wrote press releases for a part of DoD, the releases were accurate: the information within was valid. They were not, however, precise as while those designing and building various things want friends and even enemies to have some idea about the system, they sure were not stupid enough to tell everything including full performance data. I will note that a lot of USSR/Russian releases go the biased/bogus route as anything done by them is bigger, better, and does more than anything we design. They tend to advertise a lot of Ronco products in my book.

Finally, you have to take into account social filtering. This is the need to avoid getting in social trouble for what you are posting. Because the Chinese monitor and censor so heavily, people are very careful either to not post anything that could get them in trouble, or they use language that the censors don’t (yet) recognize as saying something other than what it might appear.

In both Russian and the Ukraine, the government is monitoring and even mild criticism can and will draw an official response. In Russia, it is also easy to note that other members of the public are quite happy to deal with complaints or objections to the war by a variety of means ranging from loss of job to loss of teeth. So, again, you get people either not saying what they think, or saying it in a way that will evade the censors for a while. Or, by finding platforms dark or deep that aren’t being monitored or from which they can’t be traced.

This all applies double to what is going on in the Kremlin and other centers of leadership at all levels. I think the following is universal: politicians leak; the leaks are always biased to hurt another and advance the leaker; and, the only thing more vicious than a cornered rat is a cornered political apparatchik. In Russia, politics has been a blood sport for centuries. What we might think of as a minor setback can literally be a matter of life or death. The higher you go, the more likely those are the stakes. Don’t believe me? First, study Russian history, and then go ask those Gazprom and other leaders that all just committed suicide after killing their wives and children. When someone tells me that the Russians won’t do X because they aren’t that way, or because of their children, I know they are ignorant of Russia and Russian history.

Which is why when I hear reports and rumors of discussions in the Kremlin and elsewhere, I tend to use a lot of salt. Why is that information leaking? Why is this or that spokesperson, minister, etc. saying X in public? What are they saying off camera? Is all the discussion of nuclear war a bluff? A legalistic warning and stage setting within Russia? A push to see how far they can push before getting pushback? Other? On that, I’m in wait and see mode as I know that at some point someone with a political axe to grind is going to leak something about it. Something that may not be accurate or precise, but will still reveal what was going on.

In the meantime, we still have to filter everything else. Those who continue to process everything through our cultural blinders are going to continue to be horribly wrong. Those who can set those aside and consider things from the Russian (Ukrainian, etc.) point of view are going to get it mostly right. At least on a threats and intentions basis. On a tactical/strategic basis, those who bleat about Russia having 10,000 X have yet to grasp that while that may be true, if even a third of X is useable it may constitute a miracle. At least with conventional. While I have strong questions about nuclear on both sides, as well as the reliability of the rockets, I also am in no hurry to get the answers and especially don’t desire to find out the hard way.

So, welcome back to the HUMINT trap. All our vaunted technology has brought us full circle back to the messiness that Peanut couldn’t stand.

Some Previous Posts:

Vladimir And The Ukraine

Answers, Ramblings, And A Bit More On Vladimir And The Ukraine

Your Must Read For The Day On Russia

The Puzzles In Play, And The Missing Pieces

Quick Thoughts On Ukraine/Putin

The Thing Behind The Curtain

Missing Pieces And Surprise Pieces

Thursday Update

Not A Lot To Add

Noted

Monday Update

Burn Notice

Accuracy, Reliability, And More

Putin, Trump, And The Coming Storm

Three Futures For Russia

Quick Thoughts

Saturday Update

Mismatched Locomotives

War, Ag, Demographics, And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Past, Present, And A Hungry Future

Huge Grain Of Salt

The Moskva

Retribution Inbound

Uncertainty And Preparation

Honest Question

Monday Morning Quick Brief

War Of The Memes

A Little Free Ice Cream

Rumors Of War

Three Times Is…

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Moldova

Going Nuclear

How To Spy On The Russians

Here’s Hoping I’m Wrong

Pins And Needles Time

Mock Away

Intel Wars

*****

If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Intel Wars

Sorry for the lack of free ice cream, but Tuesday and to some extent Wednesday were rough. Weather changes take a toll on me, one of the reasons I beg for people to hit the tip jar or the fundraiser so I can get to a better place. I’m also having to do preparation to prepare for the test/procedure next week. Joy.

That out of the way, I want to at least start saying a few thins about the Intel Wars. No, nothing to do with chips or with the interactions between various intelligence agencies both within countries and in different countries. If you don’t think there isn’t some fighting and sniping going on between agencies in the same country, I have a bridge for sale. Cheap.

What I want to get into a bit is the war that started back in the Carter years over the use of HUMINT resources versus what used to be called National Technical Means (NTM) which apparently is being replaced with NOS for NRO Overhead Systems for reasons about which I don’t have a clue. Kamil Galeev sparked this with some interesting discussions on Twitter that I don’t (yet) see on threadreader.

Back in the Carter years, someone finally realized that various intelligence agencies had been consorting with some most unsavory characters. In fact, I would agree that some of those regular contacts and sources should have been sent to take a dirt nap; but, I will also note that the people who know about bad things or are willing to share information against their own country or to rat out other bad people are not likely to be saints.

In fact, it was somewhat of an axiom with J.J. Angleton and others that the more pro-America/screw Russia/USSR they were, the more likely they were a plant. The reality is just a bit more complex, and in many ways defectors were and are far different from those who agree to provide information.

With defectors, you have people who defect for any number of reasons. Problem is, they can be a plant designed to give you false information and/or to gather information that they can then send back home. They can also be quite sincere and then turn around years later and try to go back home, usually gathering data to prevent prison or death. Even the most sincere defectors can/did have a hard time at some point, simply because the world as they knew it was gone, and they could never go home again.

Which means that no matter what, defectors are never fully trusted again. Some have built good lives, some others have had problems. Even after talking with some, I won’t begin to suggest that I understand all they have gone through.

Sources, whatever appellation you apply to them, are quite a different breed of fish. Some are doing it for ego, some for money, some for other things. There is a difference between those who are acting for political reasons versus say someone ratting on a terrorist group. As I discussed with a friend the other day, some of them are not wrapped very tight.

For example, check out the story of Vladimir Ippolitovitch Vetrov, aka Agent Farewell. Recruited by the French (who have him a code name that pointed at the CIA, nice touch!), he provided the intelligence that allowed Reagan, Thatcher, and Mitterrand to bring down the USSR. He was blown after he realized that he had told his mistress he was working against the USSR and stabbed them as they were parked in an area used for sex. He did a poor job of it, but did kill the off duty policeman who came up to check on things/shake them down for money (take your pick, shakedowns are a big part of cops in Russia being able to eat/have nice things).

Of course, this led to his arrest and conviction. In fact, word is that instead of the usual one page confession most gave, he provided around sixty pages gloating over all he had done. If you haven’t read about him, take the time to do so as it is interesting. Also, if you want an easy check on if someone or some publication is spreading Russian disinformation, just look to see if they try to claim Reagan and/or Thatcher betrayed him. Hint. It’s a lie. Sadly, he did himself in with his own actions.

In short, HUMINT is messy and you can’t take anyone at their word. Worse yet, from the viewpoint of the second-worst President in our history, most of them just weren’t the type you would introduce to mother or take to church down in Plains. As a result, he began an effort to reduce the use of HUMINT across the board. Instead, we would use our technology to gain information.

The fact is, using satellites, intercept gear, and other means you can gather a lot of information. You can track troops, vehicles, see where people are going, what unit is doing what, and more. Just look at all the open-source intel available on the war in the Ukraine.

To my mind, the problem is that you lack context. Yes, Russia has 10,000 tanks parked in various depots. As someone noted on Twitter the other day, the problem is that only about 3,000 of those run, and it is doubtful that many or any of them are combat ready as many are missing crucial electronics and other parts that have been sold on the black. That context was and is missing from the analysis of many.

NTM/NOS/Whateverthisweek can tell us quite a lot about what an enemy has and were it is. Careful analysis can even give you some clue about how much of it actually works or is truly combat ready. Where we can intercept communications between leaders and others, you can get an idea of what they are going to do with them. Where we don’t have that penetration, you really do need HUMINT in all its messy glory.

And all of it depends on politicians and others keeping their mouths shut. The current group in DC is particularly bad about it, from the demented Meat Puppet blowing up attempts to provide Vladimir with an exit to other sharing information on capabilities or that we are doing things that can be seen as an act of war by Vladimir. When they blab and HUMINT is revealed, people die. When they blab about NTM/NOS, we often lose that penetration.

A good example was Carter, who to show how much he knew and was in control of the situation, revealed to the public that we were listening to the Soviet leadership talk to each other over their car phones/radios. His revelation that he had heard Brezhnev discussing the apparently superior assets and skills (cough) of a masseuse named Olga if I remember correctly, seemed to offend Carter’s sensibilities. Needless to say, that bit of showboating resulted in the immediate loss of that penetration.

This needs fuller discussion, but that’s it for today. Depending on who you talk to, Carter either initiated some long-overdue reforms, or let his sanctimonious side try to eliminate the use of HUMINT as much as possible. Elements of truth to both, to be honest. That said, it bears on what is going on today as we have a lot of technical info. What we lack is the ability to analyze it in context because we both don’t have HUMINT in areas where it is needed nor do many of our analysts realize that the people involved are from a different culture with different ways of doing things. Nor have they updated in the face of new data coming in, and have not done so for a long time.

More on this sometime soon I hope.

Some Previous Posts:

Vladimir And The Ukraine

Answers, Ramblings, And A Bit More On Vladimir And The Ukraine

Your Must Read For The Day On Russia

The Puzzles In Play, And The Missing Pieces

Quick Thoughts On Ukraine/Putin

The Thing Behind The Curtain

Missing Pieces And Surprise Pieces

Thursday Update

Not A Lot To Add

Noted

Monday Update

Burn Notice

Accuracy, Reliability, And More

Putin, Trump, And The Coming Storm

Three Futures For Russia

Quick Thoughts

Saturday Update

Mismatched Locomotives

War, Ag, Demographics, And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Past, Present, And A Hungry Future

Huge Grain Of Salt

The Moskva

Retribution Inbound

Uncertainty And Preparation

Honest Question

Monday Morning Quick Brief

War Of The Memes

A Little Free Ice Cream

Rumors Of War

Three Times Is…

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Moldova

Going Nuclear

How To Spy On The Russians

Here’s Hoping I’m Wrong

Pins And Needles Time

Mock Away

*****

If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.