Why would users think they are entitled to secrecy and protection? (part 4)

As someone who has embraced the power of the digital information revolution since its inception (8086 with 8087 maths coprocessor option running MSDOS with a whopping 1MB ram) I can appreciate the perspectives derived from data analysis. The limit of my exposure to date has been small to very large organisations and personally compiled global economic data. So data matters. Dissecting the games, agencies and agents involved in the Snowden affair is a fascinating exploration with international intrigue.

For one, even a cursory exploration into the microstructure of the internet, internet security and the various protocols and transfer layers, you wonder how on earth they manage to transmit thousands of gigabytes of 1’s and 0’s at near the speed of light across the world so consistently and accurately. Simple plebiscites like me think most internet interaction is via point to point connections (or peer to peer). But there are a multitude of intermediaries (servers and networks switches) along the way. A IP traceroute will give you an example. Broadly speaking, the internet world is broken into 5 main regions (RIR’s) that track and register IP addresses using the IPv4 or IPv6 address spaces –

ARIN
LacNic
RIPE
AfrNic
APNic
http://www.iana.org/assignments/ipv4-address-space/ipv4-address-space.xml

The simple peer to peer concept above of establishing a link (session) between a user and provider for browsing/conversation/file transfer can hop between up to 20-30 (sometimes more) intermediary devices and easily involve up to a dozen unique end devices (servers) in providing the sessions information/data/charts/point of sale. Each device parses each packet of data representing part of the message between the 2 end devices (being a PC/iPad/phone etc). Importantly, the world wide web must be thought of as a public network. In doing so, it is easy to gloss over the fact that connections are by not means dedicated, nor should they be considered private. The function of the internet is implicitly reliant on unrelated multijurisdictional connections, hence it cannot be thought of as secure. Cut a cable somewhere west of Hawaii and your connection to the shoe shop in Virginia is rerouted with minimal interruption via an alternative jurisdiction.

So on the question of “Why would users think they are entitled to secrecy and protection of the information they post on these public and commercial platforms?” comes down to promotional brilliance and/or outright misrepresentation. Your data packets that are sent as a function of ANY software sent by your device using the internet can be captured/split/mirrored/duplicated and even re-routed by anyone of the devices that parse them along the way. In short, any communication (messages/data/emails/files) requiring use of the internet to transfer packets of data is not secure, and should not be considered as such. Yes, you can encrypt the data to make life difficult, however the fact that duplication/redirection and/or storage of ANYTHING transmitted on the internet remains omnipreesent – it comes down to means, motive and opportunity.

Do you know implicitly where your connection for your Microsoft automatic updates is? No
Do you know anything about the files Microsoft selects for updating or modifies during the update? No.
Do you know where the Mozilla Firefox software you are installing via the stub downloader is connecting to? Or what it is downloading? Or what it is installing? No.
Do you know what Google does when it executes your search? No.
Do you know anything about any of the 361,000,000 results (links) Google retrieved on “dog names” in 0.14 seconds? No. Ok, maybe 1 or 2.
Do you have implicit trust that these programs are doing you no harm? Yes, absolutely.
Are you entitled to that trust? No. Do you have any recourse on any breach of that trust? No.

Will you stop using the internet and will you stop accessing free providers of seeming innocuous software? No.
Are you now entrapped into using these products? No.

…….. BUT …….. (here is the kicker)

Does your ongoing existence depend in the integrity of the internet? YES, IT DOES.

Why? Because virtually every organization that requires your proof of identity from hospital/medical to finance (banks) to credit card transactions to local councils to vehicle registration to utilities to employment all maintain permanent presence (connection) to the internet. It does not have to be you who is exposed to exploitation (hacked). Yet your identity can be extracted by a hacker exploiting a weakness of any one device involved in parsing your information. Identity theft and financial hacking is VERY BIG BUSINESS!
Integrity and security are not one and the same. The integrity of the internet is very high, the security? Not at all.

Take for instance the web browser Mozilla Firefox. It has an addon utility called “Collusion” to discover who is tracking you online. When you install a fresh up to date Firefox, and connect to the Mozilla website, to install “Collusion” a program made and marketed by Mozilla, a warning pops up –

Install add-ons only from authors whom you trust.
Malicious software can damage your computer or violate your privacy
Collusion (Author not verified)”

Do you continue? Did you even read it? Of course you continue, you’ve already clicked “Install”.

So, a quick summary of our progress so far:
We’ve just downloaded and given permission to install free software (the web browser) from a seemingly trustworthy source (based only on hearsay and anecdotal evidence) using an open internet connection that is part of a paid subscriber service (ISP). We then installed a third party add-on promoted from the same source that came with an explicit warning which we acknowledged and approved before proceeding. Are we getting any closer to discovering who the bigger dickhead is yet?

Integrity and security are NOT one and the same, you dickhead …. and we haven’t even begun to talk about security.

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Big data games and strategies (part 3)

It needs to be clearly stated at the outset that intelligence gathering, espionage and counterintelligence are not modern concepts. They are centuries old dating back to at least 16th and 17th centuries when commercial and military advantage was desired between competing adversaries. While war has been (and remains) the sport of kings, few modern kings elect to wear a crown and combat is increasingly designed around militia based strategies. 21st century ‘combat’ is no longer strictly a military theatre, and (in my opinion) has formally involved commercial tactics since the US-Russia cold war – say the end of World War 2. But the contents of this soap box script are not about history.

The mechanics of the Snowden affair are not new by any stretch, only the actors and agents are. On face value, the Snowden revelations do 3 things. 1) Provide some summary details on the operations of data gathering of US intelligence, 2) provide an opportunity for the US intelligence community to test (and improve) its defences by provocation and 3) provide an opportunity for lobbyist/self interest groups to change or seed in additional US security laws. All the muppet media outlets are focused on 1), while the intent is surely to test 2) and open up 3). Declarations of war are no longer a necessity, and if we think for a second that war is for historical significance only, then we are truly a stupid species. The face of war evolves every century, and this one is no different. This is a fascinating issue involving complex networks of 21st century actors and agents, based on centuries old objectives. It is remains purely gamesmanship.

Without declaring a war, the Snowden situation (like others before it) is now an exercise opportunity for the US to test its machinery and the multitude of agency relationships, including those with sovereign allies. A great deal of money has been spent on the US military to become one of the largest employers in the world and opportunities to justify these expenses are reducing. Hence, this issue is bittersweet and can be considered a test.

 1) Assess the effects on global public perception of actors and agents involved
2) Assess the opportunity provided as an act of conflict (as not strictly at war)
3) Assess the effects on what remains of the US law making process

Finally, I will introduce a fourth item
4) The effects on participants – innocent collateral damage and target agents (countermeasures)

Having been personally involved in large corporations that live and feed on large amounts of complex relational information, I considered the tag line ‘BigData’ as muppet fodder when it first hit the tabloids. Nothing has changed this perception since big data and data analysis has existed for centuries. If the intent of ‘BigData’ is to get your information onto a remote public server, then this constitutes espionage on a global scale. But surely only the stupid would fail to see this ending up another statistic in support of Darwin’s theory. Data has always had commercial and strategic value, and collecting it provides massive advantage to those with access to analyse it. On this score, BigData sets you up to fail, but it is these recent revelations that would have some committed folks feeling sick in their stomachs that their legitimate operation has been compromised from the outset.

The 4 sections of discussion above will provide a complete assessment of the complex network while answering the only questions worth asking (from previous) –

1) Why would users think they are entitled to secrecy and protection of the information they post on these public and commercial platforms?
2) Why would the NSA assume any of the information gathered from an unsecured public network would be highly classified in nature (except by accident, incompetence or negligence)
3) Why would the US government think that sophisticated, highly dangerous criminals would use public network utilities (like those in PRISM) if intended to harm the State?
4) What effect will publically disclosing the NSA use of this low level effectively “dumb” information have on the members of PRISM on the various agents involved in the game of secrecy?

For just about everybody, the tentacles of intrusion might be pervasive but we are left with little or no choice having accepted the role of currently available technology, however it might be compromised. This applies to commercially available hardware and software we buy from vendors and install for our personal use. At least we are better informed on how we might share our own private information in future. Better yet would be to force more intelligent public and political debate over security disclosures and initiate development of alternatives, hence perpetuating the commercial cycle of creative destruction and destructive creation.

In this day and age where muppet media factories are so blatantly paid mouthpieces for the promotion of private interest groups, the evolution of collective intelligence is rapidly retrograding … and that is by design. It is muppet fodder.

To be continued at some point.

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Life is a fractal of games and strategies – part 2

Before answering what I consider the only 4 questions worth asking on this subject, we should revisit some background.

Fractal (n): A curve or geometric construct, each part of which has the same statistical character (appearance) as the whole when viewed in all scales of magnification.

By example, individual persons behaving as a community as behaving as a nation as behaving as a global population. It is remotely related to the idea of something bigger being the sum of the parts. Observations at a micro level reveal the same characteristics as those at a macro level and vice versa. Dynamics of geophysical processes are another naturally occurring example of fractals. But this is not about establishing the application or prevalence of fractals.

Game theory (n): Game theory is a study of strategic decision making. More formally, it is “the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between intelligent rational decision-makers”. An alternative term suggested “as a more descriptive name for the discipline is “interactive decision theory”.

Like it or not, everyone plays games that involve measurable outcomes, strategies, decisions and actions. Decision lead to actions, actions have consequence. It is the consequence that is measurable against an objective establishing the strategy. This header topic involves the application of games being played throughout all levels of society, from individuals to communities to corporations to Governments (the fractal). One aspect of the fractal of this gameset is that an individual is both a consumer and a producer, so too is a corporation and so on to Government. This might seem like a delicate issue concerning the NSA acting for the Government involving secret intel collected from individuals, but the games within this tiny cosmos are worth examining. It begins by listing all the agents (players) and the various games they are involved in. These agents and their games reside on various levels of magnification of this single issue from macro to micro. One game that is common throughout every level of this particular issue is known as “Prisoners dilemma” where the commonly accepted solution by all players is already known to cooperate with each other (i.e. deny/stay silent). This is not intended to be a thorough or necessarily complete assessment of the gameset comprising the issue of US national security.

At face value – the US Government plays a primary role at one (or more) levels of the issue, however this issue involves games at many levels reliant on many actors and agents. The US Government actors and agents include the law making process, specifically those laws on which this gameset is established and ‘permitted’. Note, this gameset could (and does) exist without any laws, however the preference within the US is based on some recognised form involving rules of law.

Intrinsically and explicitly connected agents and actors –

  • Public listed and private equity contractor corporations having vested financial interests – capital, hardware, software and personnel (collateral) to direct, collect, collate and distribute the objective (the ‘data’)
  • Public listed and private equity technical corporations having vested financial interests – providing hardware, software etc Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook etc to facilitate the objective (the ‘data’)
  • Producers – others who produce software/hardware/promotion/direction to enable/facilitate the activity related to this issue
  • Consumers – those who are not the above, who are users of the network of above software and hardware who are the target objective (the ‘data’). Consumers can be individuals, organisations, corporations, schools, political groups, religious groups etc (Broadly called everyone else).

One (of many) officially stated objective of the Government agencies for engaging in this gameset is that of national safety. Rules (laws) were passed to enable this gameset, and the various agents/actors engaged to build and facilitate the necessary hardware and software to achieve the desired outcome. In short, it should be obvious that the Government has not acted alone on this issue by engaging agents to execute a strategy to achieve an objective. Regardless of the ‘prisoners dilemma’ facing each and every one of the agents and actors identified within this gameset, it is beyond any necessity for asking why such an elaborate collection of laws, contractors, hardware etc would be compiled in the first place.

The objectives of each agent/actor can be easily and comprehensively deduced, and the knowledge base of strategies applied to each. Like any good murder mystery having “means, motive, and opportunity is a popular cultural summation of the three aspects of a crime that must be established before guilt can be determined.” (Refer US criminal law) So who is guilty of what?

I would hazard a guess that the US Government has much more to lose than simply some ‘face’ on closer examination of this issue, and that the financial interests of the various Government subcontractors would be of principle and primary concern. That is, the corporations engaged (in this instance) in delivering the NSA strategy are proudly promoted as serving both military and civil obligations i.e. for private and Government client bases. Concerning is that some (most?) are multinational corporations operating in non-US jurisdictions. It has been repeatedly and consistently reported that the US lawmakers are beholden to financial interests, and that private self interest groups are heavily involved in scribing US laws. Public and private corporations are then engaged by direct execution of these laws to implement that strategy and achieve the objective.

It is beyond obvious that if anything has been compromised by the recent NSA revelations, then it is a good deal more than simply the exposure of the NSA operations in regard to this issue. Do we really need to revisit every previous example of corporate failure that has resulted from compromised managerial behaviour within US (and non-US) corporations before the world learns another painful lesson on trust (or the lack thereof).

To be continued in Part 3. I’ll tackle answering the 4 questions.

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Life is a fractal of games and strategies – part 1

A growing number of real world experiences demonstrate the application of fractals throughout nature. The recent US NSA debacle said to reveal new information about an old operational methodology serves to indicate another application of fractals. That is, secrecy surrounding intelligence and counterintelligence. Under the umbrella of public safety, sorting out the criminal elements of any society might seem like sorting out grains of sand in a bucket.

State (i.e. national) protection of secrecy and intelligence are not modern inventions, however the recent NSA internet articles claim links to the largest US corporations selling/using modern electronic devices to this age old method. Namely members of PRISM (Apple, Google, Facebook etc) are purportedly implicated in supplying corporate data to the NSA (security agency) invoking public debate on civil liberties. This is also an age old issue not particular to 2013.

Intelligence (of the State secret type including intellectual property) has always involved data gathering. The data can be graded from Top Secret to Public domain in decreasing order of value. This value is not just in sensitivity but also in commercial $$ value linked to espionage of an industrial/corporate variety. The development of the atomic bomb was a textbook example of corporate espionage purportedly to “protect humanity”. Scientists defected to the US in order to explicitly defeat German efforts to develop atomic weapons of mass destruction. This was open border industrial espionage under the cover of “humanitarian causes”.

Back to the NSA in June of 2013 on the collection and use of PRISM data, this would be graded in the same system of valuation for State secrecy. Despite the civil libertarian issues, what value is this data really? Given it is public domain listed corporations with voluntary legal and moral obligations, you have to say very little. It is dumb information from the public domain. Only dumb, unsophisticated criminals would use a public network using public tools not specifically designed to maintain secrecy. Sophisticated criminals would stay well away from public communications networks and public protocols. Sophisticated criminals would be using state of the art point to point communication using hardware with encrypted communication. It has been this way since the start of the 1900’s and possibly before then.

In short, sophisticated strategies use sophisticated methods, and nothing about all the Apple, Google or Facebook public domain stuff is sophisticated. While it is ‘possible’ to use these devices more securely, nothing about their use guarantees absolute security or secrecy. Using an Apple iPad to Google search fertiliser suppliers from a cave in Afghanistan was never a clever strategy. Likewise using Facebook to post and tag photos of your associates involved in masterminding a public display of protest is sure to get you on the fast road to jail. The popularity of these corporations is purely commercially driven on face value. They are not deemed secure networks nor are they sophisticated, which invokes the only 4 questions worth asking and answering

  1. Why would users think they are entitled to secrecy and protection of the information they post on these public and commercial platforms?
  2. Why would the NSA assume any of the information gathered from an unsecured public network would be highly classified in nature (except by accident, incompetence or negligence)
  3. Why would the US government think that sophisticated, highly dangerous criminals would use public network utilities (like those in PRISM) if intended to harm the State?
  4. What effect will publically disclosing the NSA use of this low level effectively “dumb” information have on the members of PRISM on the various agents involved in the game of secrecy?

I don’t think the US Government is claiming any rights to ownership of the issues of intelligence and counterintelligence while every other nation is heavily involved in the same intelligence gathering game, as they have been for centuries. The phrase “get over it” is not appropriate as the bigger issue of intelligence gathering value and civil liberty has not been addressed. In order to sort grains of sand from a bucket, you need a bucket full of sand so suck it up and take the red pill in the mean time …

To be continued in Part 2.

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Australia balance of trade update – forecast exceeded

Updating (from the earlier article in July 2012) the forecast BOT chart for the genius’s elected to run this country. How about we start thinking about the massive revenue shortfall for the Victorian and NSW trade deficits? The $AUD will end up back at 80c as a result. I figure the RBA is now waiting for the natural order of things to kick in.

Source: ABS 5368 series

UPDATE: Oct2012 data – low exceeded, forecasted trend will be sustained -ve until Dec2013, -$2Bn ave for 2013
AUS BOT $AUD qtrly - click image

PREVIOUS CHART:
AUS BOT $AUD qtrly - click image

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EURUSD – proof of concept update

Late July2012 I issued a private internal message to associates to watch for the turn of the $EURUSD with a likely +1000 pip opportunity into 1.31 area. Actual upside target at the time was the 61.8Fib retrace into 1.316 in late September from an imminent low at 1.21.

This custom application of alpha forecasting and beta tracking techniques now leads to the another indication that the top in the $EURUSD is in, and timing is imminent for a cyclic turn into a downtrend continuation. Any further upside into options expiry mid Dec2012 is limited.

Downside target is 1.13 prior to Dec2013, with 1.20 forecast 2013 $EURUSD ave. Provided for information only, do not rely on this as financial advice. Read ths disclaimer.

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My final word on AGW – for all the climate shills

shill/SHil/ (adapted original source google)

Noun:
An accomplice of a gambler, swindler or UN Secretary who acts as an enthusiastic customer to entice or encourage others.
Verb:
Act or work as such a person:  “the UN Secretary in the crowd could shill for AGW muppets”.

In case you misunderstand me, I pay considerable care and attention to the environment in our day to day life as well as a professional. Yes, I know the CO2 is increasing. As an Engineer, it is exceedingly easy to evaluate efficiencies of performance and identify waste. This being my final installment on the emotional debate on climate science, it is disturbing (not just as an Engineer) to read the latest alarmist commentary from the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon (#BKM). Shills of the world have been united in their response by regurgitating #BKM verbatum without first vetting the gross misrepresentation for themselves! #BKM is outright polling muppets for emotional response using unsupported alarmist bullshit statements that are readily refuted by the IPCC’s own conclusions. Make reference to the 2012 IPCC SREX report (pdf link here).

To quote the original source article which first raised this garbage to my attention:
Open letter to UN Secretary-General: Current scientific knowledge does not substantiate Ban Ki-Moon assertions on weather and climate, say 125-plus scientists

As a trader and data analyst myself, anyone even slightly interested in trend analysis can recognize periodicity, volatility and outliers in data. Statisticians call these ‘confidence bands’ and use low,medium,high confidence by way of reference. Nothing I have seen lately indicates that current weather is outside a historically normal volatility band with the odd one or two outliers in over 20 historical charts. In most cases we a well within the volatility band of trends. For instance, refer to these two recent video’s containing summary charts by Joe D’Aleo on Hurricane Sandy and extreme weather on Watt’s up with that. Sandy was not an outlier, and was in fact well within historically normal patterns. Even reasonable persons would be astonished at the recent and blatant misrepresentation of the UN Secretary General.

— start quote —
On November 9 this year you told the General Assembly: “Extreme weather due to climate change is the new normal … Our challenge remains, clear and urgent: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to strengthen adaptation to … even larger climate shocks … and to reach a legally binding climate agreement by 2015 … This should be one of the main lessons of Hurricane Sandy.”
— end quote —

And the shill’s complaints can be heard echoing loudly around forums as if someone cuts off a left leg whenever strawman comments are posted by the agnostics /denialists /skeptics? Give us a fucking break! How many times does it have to be stated that actual historical data does not support this alarmist misrepresentation? Sandy was not an anomalous event by any stretch of the imagination. While it is no surprise that the UN pushes an agenda like any good puppet organization should, let’s consider what really are the blights on humanity that impede our intellectual evolution as apex predators. From the same article above –

The incidence and severity of extreme weather has not increased. There is little evidence that dangerous weather-related events will occur more often in the future. The U.N.’s own Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says in its Special Report on Extreme Weather (2012) that there is “an absence of an attributable climate change signal” in trends in extreme weather losses to date. The funds currently dedicated to trying to stop extreme weather should therefore be diverted to strengthening our infrastructure so as to be able to withstand these inevitable, natural events, and to helping communities rebuild after natural catastrophes such as tropical storm Sandy.

Haven’t finished reading the IPCC rag yet, but note the title “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX)” should be read literally. It is full of useful content that more than dismisses #BKM’s careless rhetoric.

Some notable extracts … first to establish credibility …
— start quote —
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change, including the physical science of climate; impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability; and mitigation of climate change.

The report focuses on the relationship between climate change and extreme weather and climate events, the impacts of such events, and the strategies to manage the associated risks.

This Special Report, in particular, contributes to frame the challenge of dealing with extreme weather and climate events as an issue in decisionmaking under uncertainty, analyzing response in the context of risk management.
— end quote —

… Page 8 will draw a lot of responses, but don’t stop there. Section 4.5.3.3 on pages 268 and 269 appear to be very significant. Increases in economic losses are not an indication of the increase in severity since inflation and population density can easily account for that IMO. If we choose to live in extreme weather or high exposure corridors, then who is the bigger fool? It’s like buying ocean front and then complaining about the tide.

— start quote —
… demonstrated that other normalized records of total economic and insured losses for the same series of hurricanes exhibit no significant trends in losses since 1900.

The absence of an attributable climate change signal in losses also holds for flood losses (Pielke Jr. and Downton, 2000; Downton et al., 2005; Barredo, 2009; Hilker et al., 2009), although some studies did find recent increases in flood losses related in part to changes in intense rainfall events (Fengqing et al., 2005; Chang et al., 2009). For precipitation- related events (intense rainfall, hail, and flash floods), the picture is more diverse. Some studies suggest an increase in damages related to a changing incidence in extreme precipitation (Changnon, 2001, 2009), although no trends were found for normalized losses from flash floods and landslides in Switzerland (Hilker et al., 2009). Similarly, a study of normalized damages from bushfires in Australia also shows that increases are due to increasing exposure and wealth (Crompton et al., 2010).

Increasing exposure of people and economic assets has been the major cause of long-term increases in economic losses from weather- and climate-related disasters (high confidence).
— end quote —

I read the last ones as us putting ourselves in harms way by increasing our own exposure to natural events. Something more closely associated with Darwinism than evolution of intellect I am guessing. Deriving global policies to address personal choices of putting yourself in harms way doesn’t sound like any kind of genius that I need to be a part of.

— start quote —
The following day, in Al Gore’s “Dirty Weather” Webcast, you spoke of “more severe storms, harsher droughts, greater floods”, concluding: “Two weeks ago, Hurricane Sandy struck the eastern seaboard of the United States. A nation saw the reality of climate change. The recovery will cost tens of billions of dollars. The cost of inaction will be even higher. We must reduce our dependence on carbon emissions.”
— end quote —

Again, to quote directly from the IPCC 2012 SREX report which is worth reading from front to back covers (here http://www.ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/images/uploads/SREX-All_FINAL.pdf) read pages 8,9,268 and 269 if short on time.

— start quote —
There have been statistically significant trends in the number of heavy precipitation events in some regions. It is likely that more of these regions have experienced increases than decreases, although there are strong regional and subregional variations in these trends. [3.3.2]

There is low confidence in any observed long-term (i.e., 40 years or more) increases in tropical cyclone activity (i.e., intensity, frequency, duration), after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities. It is likely that there has been a poleward shift in the main Northern and Southern Hemisphere extratropical storm tracks. There is low confidence in observed trends in small spatial-scale phenomena such as tornadoes and hail because of data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systems. [3.3.2, 3.3.3, 3.4.4, 3.4.5]
— end quote —

Enough said …. The above IPCC report is damning of the pro-warmist alarmist statements recently issued by the UN. Trends, volatility bands (confidence intervals) and the occasional outlier are sufficient to have sufficiently complete confidence under any reasonable examination that nothing is outside of historical normals since 1900 (my words and observations on the iPCC report). Go ahead, read it for yourself if you read nothing else.

Unless more bullshit is printed by the muppet media mandate, then this is the last time I’ll post on AGW and climategate. You are sick of hearing about it as much as I am. Yes, I know the CO2 is increasing, and it will continue to do so.

Gone long carbon yet? It is the trade of the millenium, by design.

regards,
atr

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