Exploring @darkmtn & Associates

Whenever I take an interest in a new group, like The Dark Mountain Project,  I examine their social network. Starting with the team page I found eight core members on Twitter.

Dark Mountain Core Members

Dark Mountain Core Members

And 811 of the people they follow.

Dark Mountain Core's 819 Follows

Dark Mountain Core’s 819 Follows

Who is mentioned is often more interesting than who is followed; this data represents activity, and it’s timestamped if we want to focus on a particular temporal window.

2933 Mentions By Dark Mountain Core

2933 Mentions By Dark Mountain Core

Dark Mountain Core & 128 Mentions

Dark Mountain Core & 128 Mentions

Dialing back to just accounts mentioned by three or more of the eight led to a quite manageable set of 128 mentions, which I then manually trimmed, removing media figures and news sources. We’ll hunting for interesting humans here, not entities they criticize. After a little manual work there are 112 accounts mentioned by the core members that seem worthy of manual examination.

112 Top Mentions

112 Top Mentions

And then one last click, viewing only accounts mentioned by at least four of the eight core members leaves us with this:

38 Top Mentions

38 Top Mentions

I already recognize @aeonmag as a source of insightful, provocative writing, but the rest of these are wholly new to me.

And I’m a bit worried to start reading … because this feels like the beginning of my foray into peak oil and energy policy a decade ago. There were months of despondence and depression, even when I saw a potential path out of it. This … this is a full on acceptance of a worst case estimate of what the Anthropocene means … and I think we’ve made our own slow motion Toba.

Eight Principles Of Uncivilization

I have been sharing my recent free floating, angsty writing with a friend, and he just turned me on to The Dark Mountain Project. I’m reproducing the eight key points from their manifesto here for future reference.

 

  1. We live in a time of social, economic and ecological unravelling. All around us are signs that our whole way of living is already passing into history. We will face this reality honestly and learn how to live with it.
  2. We reject the faith which holds that the converging crises of our times can be reduced to a set of ‘problems’ in need of technological or political ‘solutions’.
  3. We believe that the roots of these crises lie in the stories we have been telling ourselves. We intend to challenge the stories which underpin our civilization: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality, and the myth of our separation from ‘nature’. These myths are more dangerous for the fact that we have forgotten they are myths.
  4. We will reassert the role of storytelling as more than mere entertainment. It is through stories that we weave reality.
  5. Humans are not the point and purpose of the planet. Our art will begin with the attempt to step outside the human bubble. By careful attention, we will reengage with the non-human world.
  6. We will celebrate writing and art which is grounded in a sense of place and of time. Our literature has been dominated for too long by those who inhabit the cosmopolitan citadels.
  7. We will not lose ourselves in the elaboration of theories or ideologies. Our words will be elemental. We write with dirt under our fingernails.
  8. The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop. Together, we will find the hope beyond hope, the paths which lead to the unknown world ahead of us.
Eight Principles

Eight Principles

Mt Elbert

Mt Elbert

Record Heat Sans El Niño

The smallest posts on Phys.org are often the most terrifying.

Even without an El Nino warming the world’s waters, Earth in February sizzled to its second hottest temperature on record, behind only last year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calculated that February 2017 averaged 55.66 degrees (13.08 degrees Celsius). That’s 1.76 degrees (.98 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 20th century average.

It was also the second hottest winter in the on record. Records go back to 1880.

In the past, Earth doesn’t come near record heat if there’s no El Nino. This year it did—on every continent.

NOAA climate scientist Ahira Sanchez-Lugo called it clear evidence of .

She calculated that the rate of February warming since 1980 is twice as high as since 1880.

July of 2016 was the hottest individual month on record. Just prior to that we had the hottest eleven month streak on record. There are two kinds of reports now – abnormally warm, and extraordinarily abnormally warm.

Previously in Liebig’s Red Line I noted that not only do biological systems have resource constraints, but technical systems do, too. If we were wise we’d be hustling as hard as possible to convert all air conditioning requirements in this country to solar, given that the need matches the production curve. The other big benefits are that solar is naturally distributed, it’s a source of heat for cool, but sunny days, and best of all it produces electricity without requiring cooling water.

California got a reprieve last month in the form of record setting rains, and then we got another reprieve in the form of the Oroville emergency spillway holding despite the stress. Had it failed the top 30′ of the largest reservoir in the state would have come out all at once. The evacuation of nearly 200,000 Butte county residents was deemed a necessary precaution. Now we sit and wait and hope that this early fill is enough, given that the heat is going to quickly drain our natural storage in the Sierra snow pack.

Oroville Spillway

Oroville Spillway. It’s supposed to be a long, straight chute full of water.

 

Liebig’s Red Line

I often see articles with inter-generational time spans and predictions that make no sense. The idea of nearly ten billion of us living on this little rock come 2050 is based on linear predictions of things that are already becoming non-linear. See Functional Triage for more thinking on this.

Our society has bumped into Liebig’s Law of the Minimum twice in the last two hundred years, as I first described in Dead Gods Of Atacama eight years ago. These two collisions in which we hit the upper limit of the least common basic plant nutrient, biologically available nitrogen, were resolved by first finding a fossil source, and then later by developing a process that trades fossil fuel for ammonia and follow on compounds.

Biological Liebig minimums put a cap on our population size. If we keep making biologically available nitrogen using fossil fuel, which currently contributes 1.5% of our total carbon dioxide, as well as a poorly characterized share of very potent nitrogen based greenhouse gases, we’ll find the limits are more to do with water and growing degree days. Corn wants moist soil and 86F days. Productivity declines when it’s hotter and all but ceases around 100F. This has grim implications for sub-Saharan Africa.

 

While originally developed in the context of biological systems, Liebig’s Law applies to technical systems as well. The same hopeful view on population also appears in connection with America’s automobile habit. “We’ll just be driving electrical cars.” This statement supports a future most Americans can visualize, but it’s not accurate. There simply isn’t enough lead, lithium, or other battery components to support a straight across switch, even if we could make the needed electricity.

This article on Phys.org explains without descending into breathless warnings. There is a bound on our clean energy future thanks to the availability of key minerals. Even if we accept that we’re not all going to drive Tesla sedans, the constraints are tighter than that.

Research team warns of mineral supply constraints as demand increases for green technologies .

The same may be true for technology metals that could become essential in green technologies—like neodymium, terbium or iridium. These minerals are only needed in small quantities, but they are indispensable to making the technology work, meaning that while the scale seems small, the value is immense.

And that is the very soul of a Liebig Minimum in a single paragraph.

What happened in Somalia, what is happening in Syria, what NATO triggered in Libya, what has just begun in Yemen, these are the new normal. Overpopulated, arid places will be the first to fail. Egypt erupted in 2011, both Iran and Saudi Arabia are ticking bombs. When these oil producers are unable to escape what engulfed their smaller neighbors, we may finally turn to the renewable energy path we ought to have taken at a variety of inflection points over the last fifty years.

 

When we finally, inevitably do make that course correction, we’re going to discover that there isn’t enough to go around. Our population overshoot, rising from one billion circa 1800 when we began working the Atacama’s fossil nitrate deposits, to the seven billion today, rides on the back of our temporary conquest of this biological minimum, but there are technical minima required to turn Trinidad’s natural gas into American corn and wheat.  Peak oilers liked to talk about “getting back to our solar maximum”. What that solar maximum looks like is going to be heavily modulated by how much of the sun’s energy we capture and in what form.

A purely biological capture system looks like the world circa 1800, while a mindful use of mineral resources might leave us with a 20th century standard of living. Nobody has modeled this, really, because it’s too complex, and because those with the power to change course lack the political will to even make a clear eyed examination of our prospects.

There are a spectrum of potential outcomes for the Anthropocene, ranging from relatively cold, isolated, culturally homogenous Japan as the last bastion of our developed culture, to a genetic bottleneck for our species that finally pinches out on Wrangel Island or some other Arctic redoubt. Even the best outcome is a hard future to swallow from the perspective of someone born at America’s peak and inspired by the hopeful techno cornucopia  of Star Trek seen against the backdrop of our first shuttle flights.

Abandoned Buran Shuttle

Abandoned Buran Shuttle

Political Spearphishing

If you’ve ever visited my LinkedIn you know that I admit to working for a “nameless detective agency” in Los Angeles. I haven’t displayed any of the stuff I’ve been doing, but this week I got something where I can make my findings public, a broad political spearphishing campaign.

 

The origin of the emails were obfuscated, but all anchored at mesrv.com. Using Maltego I found dozens of subdomains.

Many Mail Servers

Many Mail Servers

The Whois lookup for the domain was completely useless, a proxy registration intended to thwart diggers.

mesrv.com Current Whois

mesrv.com Current Whois

But this particular operator didn’t register clean at the start of this game. Hello, Mohammed Benyahia.

mesrv.com by Mohammed Benyahia

mesrv.com by Mohammed Benyahia

The other 21 domains associated with his name were available:

Mohammed Benyahia domains

Mohammed Benyahia domains

Domains are registered to mohamed.benyahia@tersea.com, and a quick scan shows that mesrv.com and tersea.com are quartered in the same place today. This gives me the sense I’ve got the right guy, it’s not like someone picked up the mesrv.com domain at random and put it to work using Benyahia’s business as a cover.

mesrv.com & tersea.com

mesrv.com & tersea.com

I visited tersea.com’s site and they conveniently revealed the @tersea Twitter account. It only took moments to find @Salutismo, Benyahia’s personal account, and then from there the rest fell out quickly.

@tersea & @Salutismo Common Contacts

@tersea & @Salutismo Common Contacts

Some of those are big media accounts, stripping those, it appears we’ve found some possible associates:

Benyahia's Probable Associates

Benyahia’s Probable Associates

Among them, I most like Dany Tech aka Omar Salhane, since he’s locked down and that sounds like a Moroccan name, same as Benyahia. Small accounts like these, particularly long abandoned, are absolutely treasure, they’re a candid admission of how things were in the past, and only a really experienced player will know to clean up, or to salt their trail with fake stuff.

Omar Salhane's One Mention

Omar Salhane’s One Mention

 

So that’s some initial recon. We’re looking for someone who can pick out who is important in a specific left leaning political organization and go at them hard. A Moroccan living in Paris with rented servers in Ireland? That doesn’t add up, so at this point I guess this guy is a service provider to many activities, perhaps some shady, and I change direction a bit.

 

If found thirteen IPv4 and two IPv6 addresses active for the twenty one domains.

Active IPs

Active IPs

tersea.com & Friends

tersea.com & Friends

The tersea.com domain is hosted within AS36884 Wana in Morocco. There are some other servers within AS8560 1 & 1 in France.

1 and 1 Servers

1 & 1 Servers

I thought it would be interesting to employ ThreatCrowd, a Maltego transform that queries Alien Vault’s Open Threat Exchange. Two of the fifteen IPs came back hot – involved in malware campaigns. Notice the number of German domains here? All of Benyahia’s contacts are French speakers, so this looks like a generalized place for bad actors.

ThreatCrowd Results

ThreatCrowd Results

And the main teasea.com domain came back hot, too.

tersea ThreatCrowd Results

tersea ThreatCrowd Results

 

I think Benyahia is a fraudster, a spammer, but he doesn’t read like someone who goes hunting in the American political space. He probably sold some services to someone who did, and that’s a deeper level of digging required to expose the truth. I haven’t seen the details on the attempts so I can’t predict if I’ll be able to display them here, or if they’re specific enough to identify the target.

This sort of work is fun for me, like doing a puzzle where there’s a scavenger hunt for the pieces before I can even start.

 
masecretaireprivee.com
meilleuregarantie.com
hotlineprivee.com
hotline-privee.com
clickconsulte.com
groupe-tersea.com
clikconsulte.com
clicconsult.com
clikconsult.com
clicconsulte.com
updatemybox.com
abdellahyacoubi.com
satisfaction-tui.com
pescallness.com
tercea.com
cozact.com
tersea.net
tersea.com
tersalia.com
mesrv.com
monrdvpro.com

Fact Checking @LouiseMensch On @Wikileaks

I am equal parts pleased and surprised that @LouiseMensch has my tiny personal Twitter account blocked, and I mostly ignore her. She has become a nexus for interesting disclosures, but far too confident in her assessments. Today she made a statement that got one of my non-technical friends all percolated, so I had to use another account to see what she’s doing.

Mensch on Wikileaks

Mensch on Wikileaks

So what’s actually going on here, at a level deeper than a single traceroute and a lot of self promotion? Here is how an infrastructure savvy examiner might proceed. First, lets look at DNS for the Wikileaks domain. There are four Wikileaks nameservers. The first two are a pair at something called LLC Afk Group, which Maltego mis-identified as Solar Communications and which is indeed inside Russia. Russia’s  Mir Telematiki Ltd (AS49335), Netherland based LeaseWeb (AS60781), and Norway’s Blix Solutions (AS50304) each provide service for Wikileaks third and fourth nameservers. This is a load balancing scheme meant to thwart denial of service, which has been a historic problem for them.

Wikileaks DNS

Wikileaks DNS

Wikileaks runs specific servers for various projects so I trimmed the overall output a bit to make a sensible sized graph.

Wikileaks Servers

Wikileaks Servers

Wikileaks content is served from Netherlands, Norway, and Russia. This is their public facing stuff, these are probably some sort of load balancing and caching devices. I will speculate that there is an origin somewhere, perhaps not even in any of these datacenters. If I were running an operation like this the official ‘site’ would only talk to those seven load balancers and whatever systems the staff use to make updates.

 

I have no opinion on Mensch’s identification Chayanov as the operator and I’m not going to spend any time on this. Look at @briankrebs for his opinions on this, he is among the most trusted reporters covering this area.

I will take Mensch’s other assertions to task.

  • The Russian hacker and spammer can ‘monitor traffic’.

  • He can tell who is reading anything on the Wikileaks site.

  • The Russian hacker has access to all documents that have been sent to Wikileaks.

  • He can probably bust the anonymity of any computer or user who thought they were anonymously donating to Wikileaks.

  • Anyone sending secrets to Wikileaks as a whistleblower can be blackmailed.

This is all Very Scary and you should stop leaking to, donating to, or even visiting Wikileaks IMMEDIATELY. Or you can take a more sober look at the facts and the conclusions.

First, anyone who controls a load balancer could be observing the traffic between the system and a reader. This is a fundamental fact of life – if you visit a server, its operator can see the traffic generated between their system and you. This has been stated in a vague, scary fashion.

Second, anyone who controls the DNS servers can see which IP addresses are asking for name resolution, and this dovetails with the first statement. Put less breathily, if you visit a web site, the operator knows you are there, unless you happen to use a VPN or Tor.

The load balancers encrypt traffic using SSL but the operator could get in the middle of that and observe at a lower, unencrypted level. The content itself might be stored in encrypted file systems to discourage warrants being served on the hosting facilities. This seems like more breathy hand waving – infrastructure providers can read whats on the infrastructure of the public web site they’re assisting.  I think the intention here is to scare anyone from sending Wikileaks documents, which are absolutely handled in a very different fashion, based on their prior publication protection, Mensch is making broad, simple minded assumptions here and I doubt they would hold up to a cross examination.

I don’t know much about the Wikileaks donation process but such areas are hotly worked by fraudsters, so much so that a DNS and hosting operator typically can’t get in the middle of payment processing. The illogical leap from one of three hosting facilities used is in Russia to ZOMG THEY WILL GET YOUR CREDIT CARD needs to be explained in a careful, step by step fashion, or it’s just hand wringing.

Anyone sending content to Wikileaks as a whistleblower could be blackmailed, assuming they are under tight Russian control. Yep, that is entirely possible, and while it is obvious that Assange is taking his lead from Russian sources, I think it’s an extraordinary leap for Mensch to claim they have turned their entire leak intake process over, or that they are even permitting GRU or whomever to do oversight. One mistake in this area and Wikileaks is dead.

And killing Wikileaks is what Mensch is trying to do with this smear.  I don’t approve of everything Assange has done, and that goes double for the obvious collusion with Russia regarding the 2016 U.S. election, but her claims are sloppy and conspiratorial.  I actually took the time to go read the underlying analysis behind this by Laurelai Bailey aka @stuxnetsource and it’s less irresponsible than what Mensch has done, but there are unwarranted jumps in her thinking as well.

World War Zero

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We had two wars in the 20th century, World War I(1914-1919) and World War II (1939-1945), which were characterized as world wars due to their global nature, involving all major economic powers and combat on most continents. As collective memory in America tends to start on April 19th of 1775 we forget the first all encompassing conflict – the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1715).

Europe, North America, and South America all got dragged into Europe’s effort to dissuade the merger of French and Spanish power after the death of the penultimate royal inbred, Charles II, in 1700. I lack a map of the Imperial Alliance Network involved in this conflict, but here are a list of the political entities involved.

Spanish Succession

Spanish Succession

The concept of divine right of rule started to die when Charles did and it pretty much took the entire 18th century to play out, ending with the conclusion of the French Revolution in 1799.

We seem to be entering another period of global upheaval that arguably began with the end of the Cold War in 1991. The unipolar, western dominated world is coming apart, not because it failed to face down communism, but because posts communist Russian corruption is eating it from the inside.

There are world events conditioned on environmental issues. The French Revolution owed much to the Lakagígar eruption and the last time the U.S. had as many town halls as we have now was in 1816, following the Tambora eruption. I’ve argued in the past that Pinatubo in 1991 triggered over a decade of wet weather than influenced northern hemisphere wheat production.

Grímsvötn shut down air travel in Europe in 2011 and just like the Cascadia subduction zone, it’s overdue for a period of extended activity. When this volcanic system gets going it can erupt for years at a time. Europe was in chaos after just a few days of no air travel.

Fukushima is six years in the past and so is Arab Spring. I often mention the Russian fires and Pakistani flood that preceded Arab Spring.

We’re focused, for better or worse, on dismantling the neo-liberal world order that arose concurrent with the Cold War. This translates into crumbling infrastructure, declining diplomatic capacity, and I would argue that there is also declining military capability, despite massive expenditures. The F-35 Feeding Trough and the Zumwalt Class are Cold Warrior fantasies with little connection to real requirements, but they vacuum up all available funds and fail to perform as advertised.

 

When the time comes, we’re not going to be ready, not conceptually, nor financially, nor operationally. I’ve suggest there is some Functional Triage happening right now, but corruption and dissolution may lead to dysfunctional triage. Selling out smaller NATO members in the Baltic region would be an example of that. These areas are environmentally much better positioned than the likes of Yemen, Somalia, and Syria, but they have the misfortune to be nestled against resurgent Russia.

This latest series of articles offer a broader scope and a reduced level of precision than my prior work. It’s a curious place for a habitually analytical writer to be, paying more attention to feelings than facts.