Friday, 21 July 2017

watch that train come down the track


I said I was staying above the train station, so here is a better picture from one of the windows.

It's raining right now, so the view isn't quite as clear into the distance. There's a black locomotive on its way to connect back with the front of the train. It's a GWR Hall class 4-6-0, but painted in the BR livery of black with red lining rather than the characteristic green of the GWR.

It's possible to zoom into that top picture, but here's more of a close-up taken at the other end of the line.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

coal fired


It would be silly not to investigate the railway that is downstairs from the temporary apartment on the jetty. As well as the passenger ferry and the adjacent small car ferry, we have the steam trains departing about every 45 minutes.

It is even possible to check the approach of the next train via a handily positioned telescope, then saunter downstairs to be in time to catch the arriving train, whilst the locomotive runs around the rolling stock to the front ready for departure.

So what better thing to do than to head along the river and then out towards the sea, maybe to pause a while on a sunny beach?

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

paperless office with reckless abandon


I don't really care whether David Davis returned to Britain after an hour or so in Brussels because of a Commons whip or because of the in-fighting for leadership.

That he returned at all after what was effectively his second day in the front-line for the Brexit talks is appalling.

He and his team may look unprepared without papers. But we all know has a special silver briefcase with secret locks and that thing about 'don't show papers to the press' etc. It's still just like the other day when he sat in Parliament trying to laugh off Emily Thornbury's challenges. It isn't clever, it's insulting to the electorate. He's not showing leadership, and his ex colleague and erstwhile EU sparring partner Barnier must be quietly smiling at the incompetence.

May is finished, although the Tories can't tip her out yet. Davis arrogantly considers himself in the running as a replacement, along with other comedy turns like Rees-Mogg, Johnson and Gove. Hammond is being heavily briefed against, so presumably we'll get a newbie or a stitch-up (possibly both).

The Brits can't have another Referendum about Brexit, but by now there must be a dawning realisation with the negotiating team about the futility of the process against the already dwindling time-frame.

Parliament will stagger on for a few more days but then hits summer recess. I'll be watching to see how much time Davis, Fox and the others spend doing actual Brexit things during the gap. No-one will be able to resist playing games leading up to the September conference season.

Most of Britain doesn't even notice all of this stuff; Game of Thrones has restarted and there's a new Doctor Who, as well as loads of sport to watch.

Meanwhile the UK is doing all kinds of irreversible things with no-one even tacitly at the wheel.

Corbyn's lot should bite the bullet on the 52:48, declare reckless endangerment of the country citing Cameron, Osborne, May, Johnson and Gove and put a stop to the madness.

I expect I'll return to this theme from time to time. I can't help it.

Monday, 17 July 2017

finding my jetpack, oh okay, jetty


We've left the temporary barn now, moving instead to the temporary apartment close to the jetty. It wasn't very far, although the introduction of a ferry into the journey added a whole extra element.

And it was one of those ferries where the cars travel on one boat and another one alongside is used to pull it through the water and steer it into the right place.

Then to find the actual apartment, which is part of the recent series involving the shack in the wood and the barn with the alpacas. This one has a telescope, which is quite handy for looking at the steam trains along the jetty.

For a Monday morning, the train seemed very popular, and once I noticed it, I was able to get from the apartment to the trackside in good time to take a picture or two.

It also gave me a chance to discover the shortcut from the apartment to the jetty, which is all of two minutes away.

Not to mention the various other ferries that seem to ply the river. I'd better plan a route using some of them over the next few days.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

tap turns on the water #CCS #SS7 #nothingtosee


Like a series of Homeland, Breaking Bad or House of Cards, I'm finding the the ongoing White House saga a bit too suitable for binge viewing.

One of Trump's old mentors, the rather unsavoury lawyer Roy Cohn, gave advice to Trump along the lines of 'Never leave a paper trail.' Other advice included the formula 'Attack, counterattack and never apologise.'

Paul Manaport, Trump's one-time campaign manager was also good at the 'no paper trail' idea.

That certainly seems to be the case, along with the Cohn formula.

Ironic then, if true, that Manaport's phone was subject to FBI surveillance.

An old 1975 phone routing protocol called Common Channel Signalling (CCS) is still used today as the basis of phone call interception, by re-routing the call (e.g. to a surveillance desk) and then onwards to its real destination. The protocol is supposed to be used for roaming and mast handovers, but the Americans with their Plain Old Telephone Service can also use it for wiretapping.

Now, there's a small group of peopler alleged to have had this wiretapping switched on Manaport ~(frequently at Trump meetings), James Comey (who Trump sacked from leading the FBI) who asked for it to be enabled on his own work phone and (oo-er, via Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

What I can't understand, however, is that if this was true, then where are all the recordings? The basic use of CCS-SS7 can TRACK a phone, the more extensive use would provide fuller surveillance, from which there should thus be recordings.

For Comey, I can understand if there's nothing forthcoming. He's ex-FBI and also writing a show-and- tell book. For Kislyak, it could be immensely embarrassing to be seen to be bugging a foreign diplomat. Manaport could be fair game, but there's nothing in the open.

So, given the scrabble to go to the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and the lack of published files, it somehow suggests that Donny Junior's team were still short of proper information related to ways to assist their election prospects?

The complexities of this all require a proper flow chart or detective crazy wall to join things together.

Add in the curious Trump server (trump-email.com) which seemed to spend most of its life chatting to Alfa Bank in Russia and we start to have quite a three dimensional crossword. Of course, the investigations themselves are now polluting the findings. That server was spammed heavily just before it was taken down, which has helped to cover the tracks.

Incidentally, the server is back online now, but gives out droll error messages, presumably whilst monitoring who has taken a peek at it.

And now I speculate slightly. A combination of, say, a profiling database and a DNC campaign database would make a great start for who to influence. Ring any bells? That huge Facebook hack, plus the DNC database theft? But who to analyse it all? Trump's strategist Steve Bannon is a friend of Cambridge Analytica who could offer such services and - wait- are owned by Alfa Bank.

In the other direction such a server could provide access to funds (suitably laundered) which could then be used, say, by a botnet to create messages to those targeted voters.

I'd suppose I'd base the botnet in Russia although I could offshore it to say, Florida, for the irony.

And to keep things dramatic, Trump Junior has now retained Alan Futerfas as his attorney. "He's a good kid," as Trump Senior describes his 39 year old son, whilst helping him obtain the same veteran New York criminal defence attorney used by mafia crime families.

But. No tapes, no papers, no story?

Here's CCS playing 'tap turns on the water, See the water flow. Acorn makes a forest, see the forest grow.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

bumbling

An incidental feature of the temporary barn where we are staying is the range of bugs that appear inside from time to time. Butterflies, moths and an occasional bumblebee.

The bumblebees don't seem to very good at Velux windows. They can fly up to them but somehow try to push the glass instead of simple dodging out around the edges.

It's like an unseen force trapping them until we oblige by using a long stick to help pilot them back outside.

There's a similar unseen force pushing down on that Donny Junior character at the moment. I'll admit a certain fascination because of the way the 'information' is trickling out in stages. First Donny Junior didn't remember the Russian intel meeting which took place on 6 June 2016. Then he remembered it was with the Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya who didn't provide any information. It initially sounded like a private meeting. The later versions are now putting seven people in the room.

They include Jared Kuschner and Paul Manaport, but are now also beginning to show the presence of the casually attired Rinat Akhmetshin the 'alleged' ex Russian counterintelligence GRU agent who operates as a Washington lobbyist with links to the Fusion GPS pro-Russia group. Add Natalia'a translator and we get to seven.

There's also mention now of the the paperwork that Veselnitskaya is said to have handed to Donny Junior. That isn't coming from Donny however, its coming from Akhmetshin, who has decided to break cover on the whole situation.

It is supposed to include a printed out dossier of payments related to Democratic party intelligence leakage. Akhmetshin is even showing up on Wikipedia now, although it's not clear how long that will last because there's already a wiki note debating deletion of the page. I'm guessing it won't be long before the American administration tries to cover er tracks on Akhmentshin's modus operandi, not least because they would consider him to be a foreign agent engaged in lobbying. There's a US restriction own this through a declaration known as FARA. Although, confusingly, it also appears that Akhmentshin nowadays has US citizenship.

The difference between the trapped bumblebee and Donny Junior seems to be one of intent. The hapless bee keeps doing the same thing until the stick appears to help guide a route. For Don Jnr, the approach seems to be to try many different stories, even as a stick approaches.

Friday, 14 July 2017

sometimes a real map is easier


We've a handy Ordnance Survey map pinned to the wall in the temporary barn. It's useful for looking at various routes around this area, with its filigree of tiny lanes, often barely a single car width.

If I had a bicycle with me I'm sure I'd be using the paper map for planning, because sometimes an OS 1:50000 can reveal things that are harder to spot on Google. Add to that the slow broadband here and the use of the map is a no-brainer.

Yesterday I passed a cyclist pushing his bicycle up a very steep hill. It was a long uphill drag with grasses swaying into the middle of the single track road.

The single and double chevrons and the contours of the map become a helpful aid for planning the best routes. Having driven several miles erroneously along an unmetalled surface I even resorted to a phone call to work out the best way back.

My sat-nav is usually pretty good, and a friend of mine even remarked that it had found a clever way through to a particular village - the kind of route that only a local would take. I'd amend that for some of the roads 'a local with nerves of steel'.

However, we are already noticing that some of the once-thought thin roads now seem considerably wider. As we routinely drive past a parked driving school car in a nearby village, we muse about learning to drive around here. I learnt to drive around London, so I guess it's six of one and half a dozen of the other.

What I do know is that we'll be blending a mix of urban, country and seaside once we get re-united with all of our stuff, some 40 miles to the north east.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

move along, no dons here


Somebody told me there’s a trail of Russian dealings literally right at Mr Trump's feet.

They said that it started when, back in 1987, a Russian bought five of Trump’s condos in Trump Tower in one go. He was a Russian named David Bogatin and worked for some Russian oligarchs.

Suspecting fake news, I looked it up. It turned out to be true and Mr Trump was even at the deal closure in person. Now it all happened when the old Soviet Union had broken apart and the Russian mafia were taking their rake-offs from Russian state companies, like oil and transport.

They needed somewhere to park money as well as a way to launder it. Trump was one of the first to permit confidential buyers of his building assets. He wouldn't know anything about the other back-story.

Curiously, it is also said that the same Bogatin was later convicted as a gasoline bootlegger. I checked this too and and indeed the FBI did take back his five condos which were being used both to hide assets and from money laundering. Oh well, we live and learn.

I remember times in Russia when I’d see the small scale end of the gasoline bootlegging, with literally trestle tables piled with cheap fuel on sale in the street.

Now to keep things interesting, it turns out that Bogatin’s brother was also dicey and part of a $150m stock scam, working for none other than Semion Mogilevich, a tip-top Russian mobster, at the time expanding his empire in New York.

There’s no direct connection to Trump in any of this, of course. If he happened to sell some condos to a Russian mobster, it could just as easily have been someone else making the deal.

Something similar emerged when Trump Tower then became the host for another Russian mobster. This time Vyachelsav Ivankov set up as Moglivich's enforcer in another anonymous condo in the Tower.

Fair enough, but that’s not all. It turns out that the entire floor below Trump became used for illicit gambling and money laundering. Eventually the FBI raided it. Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, ran this operation and the FBI identified him as another Russian mobster linked with Semion Mogilevich.

Just because it's the floor below Trump's in one of his towers doesn't prove any link.

It's about now that Alexander Litvinenko, pops up. He’s the Russian intelligence agent who defected to London and was murdered by allegedly Kremlin agents with tea laced with radioactive polonium. I strongly remember this because I was one of the people British Airways called up for having used the same plane seat that Litvinenko had used. The relevant piece here is that Litvinenko linked Mogilevich with Putin, saying they had a good relationship since around 1994.

So now it's three times there's been a Russian mobster using Trump's tower to conduct business and each time there's a link an FBI most wanted mobster who is also a good relation of Putin.

I know, it's all circumstantial and coincidental. It’s just unfortunate that Moglevich’s name comes up in the background of Trump deals. Surely these mobsters are just using Trump’s organisation as an unwitting patsy? And treating Trump property as a kind of home away from home?

The same probably for Trump’s Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, which was fined for money laundering under the auspices of Vyachelsav Ivankov. It was the biggest fine to that date, some $10 million, but could almost be regarded as a cost of doing business to the mobsters. Worse was Ivankov’s fate later, being gunned down in Moscow.

Oblivious to all of this, Trump's own business fortunes were struggling. At the end of the 1990s he owed billions of dollars and created that famous personal guarantee deficit of around $900 million, which became the basis of his ongoing tax write-downs "Because I'm smart", as he put it.

It was at the same time that Russia’s economy nose-dived and the oligarchs all needed to move money fast. A particular type of recipient became various lumps of Trump real estate, via Russian buyers and shell companies, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

It’s all circumstantial and just unfortunate that these things have been happening around Trump’s properties.

And I doubt Trump even knows anything about any of it. Oh No. Very No.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

don & co?


That Trump/Russia/Election story is one where I'm thinking some of Trump's old faux-buddiness may have backfired. Like when he was pretending to know Putin before they's actually met.

It's Don Trump Jr that has let the Outlook out of the laptop, with his 4 page email release. To be honest, I found its contents mainly a disappointment, filled with dreary meeting time rescheduling. No wonder Don Jr has the nickname Fredo, like the problematic Corleone son in the Godfather.

I can understand the main point that there was ostensibly an offer from Russia to dish some dirt on Hilary Clinton to the Trumps, and that Donny Junior, Jared Kuschner and Paul Manafort were only too pleased to hear all about it in a meeting. Naughty naughty, getting a foreign power involved in the American election. Naughty, naughty, naughty, not ever mentioning it to (for example) the FBI.

It begs the question about how many other inconvenient facts are lightly buried in the current US president's dynasty,

Unpick more of the story and it becomes a desperate scrabble for pre-election information. Firstly, when Trump was bragging about his link to Putin during the election campaign, it was clearly made-up. A false fact; what's that usually called? oh yes, a lie.

Trump did have a link to Russia through his sleazy Miss Universe contest, which was staged in Moscow. His link included Aras Algarov, the property billionaire with whom Trump was discussing a Moscow Trump Tower. The link also featured Algarov's son, a wannabe pop star called Emin. Oh yes, Trump is in one of the pop videos.

All of this leads around to the hustler promoter working for Emin Algarov, a vodka-powered Fred Flintstone looking Brit named Robert Goldstone. He suggested that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya could help the Trumps, but was probably operating at both ends of the fixer meeting.

Goldstone implied that Veselnitskaya had damaging information. He also implied that she was linked to the Russian attorney general (not true). TIt all looks like meeting bait and certainly worked when Veselnitskaya turned up at Trump Tower.

Now there's some other murkiness here, because of a related case involving Veselnitskya and a real estate tax fraud uncovered by accountant Sergei Magnitsky. He was locked up by the powerful people he accused of the fraud and then mysteriously died in prison.

It triggered a bunch of US sanctions against Russia because of the way Russian corruption appeared to be swept under the carpet. That's when Putin got involved, responding with a cessation of US adoption of Russian children.

What I get from just this part of the story (yep, there's more) is that Trump and family are not particularly choosy about the folk they consort with in Russia. They're also not that bothered about disclosure when they sail close to the wind.

Let's wait for the next piece when Washington based Rinat Akhmetshin pops up. Supposedly a former member of the Russian military intelligence services (GRU) and seemingly operating a business lobbying on behalf of Russian oligarchs in Washington.

The ironic part is that so far it really doesn't show any direct Trump link to Putin, nor real inroads to direct Russian power, but yet a kind of reflexive desperation by trumpites in their actions.

Maybe that will change when the towering stories of David Bogatin and Semion Mogilevich resurface?

And just peeking at one of the money laundering cases such as Case 1:13-cv-06326-TPG Document 381 Filed 10/23/15 (there's several) is like a glimpse into a first draft script for a Hollywood movie.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

terraforming for beginners


We've still another week or so in this barn, before we temporarily move to the railway terminus by the ferry. That'll only be for a few days because we are now on the latter stages of our building project.

I say that advisedly because today we've seen a huge down pour of rain. I haven't quite mastered the roof windows here and had them tipped just too far acting as mini chutes to let the weather cascade inside.

As for the journey to London. We are further away here, but there's some fast trains on whose route we've so far made four journeys. Even the Sunday service seems okay, although the local station doesn't open its catering until 8 am.

I'm less sure about some of the roads around these here parts. My car has those sensor beeper things and driving around many of the lanes they start beeping as if to say I'm too close to the edge. Friends with longer presence in the area tell me it's normal and that most cars have a switch to turn them off.

I'm still a long way from mastery of reversing that many around here seem to manage. They glance backward and then reverse at speeds I'd consider fast even when driving forward. It is a needed skill with all of the single track lanes. Of course, this is a consequence of us choosing temporary places away from it all. Roads and travelling should be far more straightforward in a few weeks.

We've also been watching the developments as the land around our planned destination is being remodelled by the Megaratheans. Slartibartfast would be pleased with the evolving results. There'll be a couple of new ponds and a diversion of the main stream. It's all looking rather brown at the moment, but will soon become a pleasant green colour, with added paths and foliage.

All part of a plan.

Monday, 10 July 2017

a proper eton mess


Well someone has to eat our ad-hoc and barn-prepared pudding.

The slow wifi means that its taking longer to get the news here. I'm seeing that elsewhere people are asking about a leadership election for the Conservatives. The spokespeople are all saying "No" although based upon prior 'definitive' statements, they might as well save the electricity and ink.

So cynically, just before Parliament adjourns for their extensive summer holidays, we get the vote for the great Repeal Bill. Not since Magna Carta did we get something quite so vast. A kind of negatively framed Summa Carta Libertatum to switch all of the EU legislation back to UK, subject to its inevitable illumination with twinkling costs and changes from numerous expensive experts.

Not forgetting that £8bn-£10bn per year that UK currently contributes to EU, which they won't give up without a significant fight.

Mrs Maybe is now making overtures to other parties for consultations, but mainly as a way to shove legislation through when some of her own party are iffy about what is happening. Done differently, this could have been a thoughtful way to handle Brexit, but now it comes across as desperate measures.

May's own leitmotif is off key, stuck in a groove, like a defective android. Strong and Stable/No deal better than a bad deal/unborn chicken voices in my head, etc.

That's the problem with recent actions. They say one thing but then scrabble for any nearby straw to clutch.

Everything is as wobbly as a layered trifle that failed.

Some ingredients are being rescued but others just left to sink to the bottom. Instead of red lines we're seeing pink blancmange.

The uncertainties provide good cover in the negotiation because no-one will be able to tell the full outcome, particularly if a couple of maraschino cherries are divertingly placed on top of what will probably be renamed as an Eton mess.

Post Referendum and the recent election, we should have been able to see a way for UK Parliament to reinvent itself. Some chance. Even the startup sequence was delayed and fusty. The old party system is failing. The self-interested cooks are too busy arguing about the free booze to really worry about recipe. Some mould-breaking is required, perhaps from the newer entrants.

And alongside, in walk the Americans with a very, very big Trumpian offer. Very big. What's that old saying? If it looks to good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.