Thursday, July 19, 2018

Crazy week in Russia-related matters

Trump, glowingly thinking he does great at summits, decided to have a summit with Putin. It was set for a Monday. The Friday beforehand, Mueller released indictments against 12 Russian military personnel for hacking the DNC and related crimes. The indictment document is an interesting read concerning who, what, where (including Indonesia) and how. A piece of icing in the indictment: a congressional candidate and a lobbyist are in big PR trouble because they requested dirt from those lovable Guccifer guys.

Then Trump went to Europe and had a one-on-one talk with Putin. Many people get very nervous about such a meeting--I don't. Trump doesn't live up to the promises he makes out loud in front of thousands of people, so he's not going to live up to any promises he makes behind closed doors. Also, I fully expect him to say foolish shit, and so does everyone else. Maybe he'll blab secrets, but our national security is aware of that so they won't brief him with anything that shouldn't be blabbed. And what he heard last week, he won't remember. Ok, clearly I'm not worried.

Prior to the summit, some GOPers were urging Trump to confront Putin about election interference, including Trey Gowdy and Ben Sasse. Yeah, likely Trump is going to stand up and do that. Trump is known mostly as a glad-hander at these summits with our frenemies. He wants to be liked, and he doesn't play tough. It was the same here. Praise for Putin.

A reporter asked him a gotcha question whether, in light of the indictments, he told Putin not to meddle. Trump meanders and essentially says that Putin denies it, and 'why would he do it?' I think 'nithingburger, Trump being a wuss again.' I was wrong.

Why is this something that finally causes a firestorm? Even Newt Gingrich came down on him--for one tweet. Some of the hosts on Fox News, especially Neil Cavuto, came down hard. More than the usual number of GOP congressmen did too, but does that really matter? It hasn't before.

I don't know why, but this time it was different. One day later (Tuesday), Trump is offering the explanation that he misspoke. It was pretty tepid, and not very convincing (though good enough for Gingrich, that louse). Here's an interesting analysis of how Trump apologizes or backpedals: "Insult, grudging apology, double down. Repeat." These were his exact words:
Let me be totally clear in saying that — and I’ve said this many times — I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place. [Pause] Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.
So Trump didn't really walk it back. Another attempt on Wednesday. This time, Trump finally seems more definite. Plus it's an interview with CBS, an MSM outfit instead of his softball friends at Fox News. No apology for his mistakes in the previous days, but a much stronger statement that Putin and the Russians were responsible. Currently, it's still Wednesday. Trump hasn't yet contradicted himself or softened what he said about Russian interference. Perhaps he has finally learned that he can't play that game of wink and nudge about Russian interference. Time will tell. Maybe if a month goes by and he's still on that page, it will be believable.

However, Trump is losing something--the narrative that Russian interference is a hoax by the deep state intelligence services. This isn't a small loss. So many conservative outlets have run with this fake story, as have plenty of lying congressmen. Now what?

It may be much harder for conservative media, Trump, and GOP congressmen to claim that the whole Russia accusation is a hoax and the Russia investigation is a witch hunt. I'll have to update this post in a month with info on what's happened. Real change? That would be amazing. [I'm a bit more sober today. It's hard to believe Trump will get the lesson through his thick skull. I expect more equivocation in the future, so no change.]


Extras. The plans of some congressmen to impeach Rosenstein will probably fizzle. Trump OK'ed the indictments prior to the summit. An explanation for why it's stupid to ask for the servers to be impounded. How White House staff got Trump to back pedal from Bloomberg and Vanity Fair. A bunch of theories about Trump's behavior toward Putin. Russia wants to move ahead on some of the agreements from the summit, but no US government officials know what those agreements are. Welcome to Trumpland! Get in line. We're still waiting for the beautiful healthcare plan.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Making stuff up

I think there is a lot of fake news floating around, and I suspect conservatives channel a lot of it. Remember the scare about Jade Helm? How Seth Rich was murdered because of the DNC hack? Pizzagate? Ambassador Stevens sodomized before he was killed?

Here's one that I learned today. Peter Strzok grew up in Iran, and then moved to Saudi Arabia. From that snippet, plus a letter signed by Peter Strzok where he is identified as a Section Chief, a fake news generator spins the most marvelous stories.

Peter Strzok didn't work for the FBI but was a deep state guy who slid into whatever position was required, working both for the FBI and CIA. This is all based on Strzok's signature on an FBI letter.

According to another fake news article, Strzok was:
...the key Middle Eastern Intel operative for the Iranian airline Mahan Air’s purchase of United States government planes during the Obama administration from 2011 to 2013. -- Big League Politics
Did this actually happen? I looked into it, and found an article about Iran trying to skirt sanctions and buy planes. 

The fake news article goes on to accuse Strzok of fixing the email investigation and then conveniently getting in on the Mueller investigation. What is this based on? "An insider." Or maybe someone making shit up.

With a quick search, I find that the FBI does indeed have 'section chiefs.' So that conclusion that Strzok really worked for the CIA was nothing but a lie.

I don't know how many people in our country work at fabricating these stories. Or how many more repeat them on youtube, websites, or fake news sites like InfoWars? How many more people then read this trash and believe it? It's insidious, and it should be exposed whenever possible. With extreme prejudice to the purveyors.


Monday, July 16, 2018

Grilling the FBI agent

Peter Strzok is the reviled FBI agent to wrote all sorts of nasty texts about Trump using his official FBI phone. The texts were sent to an FBI colleague with whom he was having an affair, an interesting bit of spice but oh-so-common among Congressman, presidents, and assorted Washington folk.

Supposedly Strzok may have been in deep with the deep state that concocted the Russian interference hoax as part of a planned coup. That's according to the far-right conspiracy theorists, who really seem to believe this. (Sources 1, 2, 3.) And Fox News got heavily involved, showing that it isn't much different from the far-right conspiracy theorists. Everyone is now Alex Jones school-shootings-are-staged crazy.

This past Thursday, members of the House grilled Peter Strzok. It was a circus, with too many insane moments for complete discussion here. I'll pull out a couple bits I found significant.

Trey Gowdy, a one-man Jekyll-and-Hyde combo who can't decide whether to go full honest or full partisan, decided to grill Strzok about this text complaining about what an idiot Trump is. For some reason, Gowdy wants to take these off-hand texts as completely serious. (Scroll down here for the testimony.) Absurdly, he questions Strzok on what he meant when Strzok wrote the Clinton should win 100 million to zero. He refused to accept the answer that it was hyperbole, despite that it obviously was hyperbole. How does that make sense? How is that constructive at all as questioning?

Gowdy seems to have a special hatred for Strzok. Does Gowdy not know how people talk about Trump, and how Strzok is fairly representative? On the other hand, Gowdy can be realistic, like supporting the Mueller investigation and pointing out that there is no rationale for impeaching Rosenstein. This is a head-scratcher, but that's how Gowdy has been for a long time.

Stranger still...

Much more puzzling was Louie Gohmert's questioning. Gohmert appeared to be reading notes about the Inspector General for the intelligence community (ICIG) sending an investigator to verbally tell Strzok that Clinton's server had been hacked, something strange (an anomaly) installed, and emails copied and sent to a foreign account. Strzok remembered meeting with the investigator, but nothing else. Gohmert in incensed. How could such a finding be ignored by the FBI? Well, that's a good question. No one other than Gohmert seems to have information about this accusation. I have to wonder, was there a written report? Who was it sent to? Why didn't Horowitz, the Inspector General for the DOJ, mention it? And wasn't Hillary's server stored in some facility and wiped? How would an investigator find 'an anomaly' on it if that's true?

Gohmert seems to be the only person telling this story, which is a bit bizarre. I have to wonder if Gohmert got punked with a fabricated story using a few actual details, like the name of the IC Inspector General. So far, no reporters have followed up. But it can't be hard to call up the IC Inspector General and ask him about the server. I hope I get to read about it. It would be delicious if my theory was confirmed. I'll have to eat dirt if I'm completely wrong and there is an inspector's report to that effect.

Strzok's look of defiance

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Delusions of GOP snowflakes

Too bad snowflakes. There is a fucking cloud over Trump's election. Russians hacked the Dems, released the materials, and it probably helped Trump. Without it, Clinton might have squeaked by and become a horrible president, giving mealy-mouthed speeches andcon making us wish it was 2020 already.

Instead, we have this ignoramus who can't accept that his PR plan accidentally landed him in the White House instead of with a bigger reality TV show.

So if you snowflakes want to pretend that nothing went wrong in the 2016 election, go ahead and look like fools.

Lots went wrong with that election. This country showed that we are well down the road to being the movie Idiocracy-- a movie where Americans have become so stupid that they don't remember arithmetic or how to grow crops. But they do listen to the twerps on TV who tell them stuff, like the FBI planned a coup against Trump and Russian hacking is simply a hoax. Some idiots believe that shit, like a twerp name Will on the comment thread here.

So you want to pretend Trump is a real president? Hey, we won the election, but he's a joke. The guy has no interest in important issues, only in his own image. He claimed to have saved the world from nuclear threat without actually checking whether that's true--because that would take work.

Hey, Italians had a bozo embarrassment as president too. I guess it's our turn. But please, don't pretend he's not an egotistical blowhard and an embarrassment. He shouldn't be president, and most people know that. It's a sad commentary on our political system that someone 100 times better didn't come along and toss him off the stage. Same on the Democratic side. This country has many good people, but our politicians suck. And considering the power entrusted to politicians, they are dragging us down with them. I'm not at all certain that we Americans will reverse this decline. It may be irreparable. By the time I'm 80, if I live that long, I may not be able to respect my own country. That is so sad.


Monday, June 18, 2018

June links

This has been an interesting month. Real things are happening. The long-awaited Inspect General's report about the FBI has been released. Trump and the despotic leader of North Korea insulted each other and almost torpedoed their summit, but then it was back on. Of course Trump is acting like he's saved the world from a huge threat without caring about the details, reality, or truth. But that's not new for him. Trump is never about substance or reality. It's about the show and ratings.

FBI official taking the fifth. Congress wants testimony from Andrew McCabe (probably for partisan show). However, the Department of Justice is considering charges against him, so he'll probably take the fifth in front of Congress.Normally, I'd think that is terrible, but considering he's likely to be facing charges, it makes good sense. I'm not sure why, but I have a somewhat good impression of McCabe. Maybe because he hasn't showboated or thrown anyone under the bus. However, the current director of the FBI demoted him, so it seems like there is something questionable there. And the reaction from the new FBI director? 'We need more rigorous training in being fair.'

How bad is James Clapper? Clapper is one of the many boogeymen according to those in conservative circles who believe in the horror of the 'deep state.' There's him, Comey, Loretta Lynch, Brennan, Rosenstein, and probably countless others. What exacting did Clapper do to earn that reputation? I had to look it up because no one was repeating it, just that he was evil. Supposedly his huge sin was lying to Congress about the NSA data gathering programs. His real sin was saying that Trump is a liar and unserious (my paraphrase). In this write-up of an interview, Clapper makes a lot of sense. Michael Flynn was probably played by the Russians, the Russians probably did tip the election, but we're probably going to survive this and come out stronger afterward. Sensible and reasonable.

Round-up on Inspector General's report. CNN has a series of short, readable clips about the significance of the report. Alan Dershowitz, legal savant and media whore, blasts Comey based on information from the report. Nice to know that Dershowitz has an infallible sense of how to handle fraught situations. He thinks Rosenstein has to recuse himself, and then oversight will fall into the lap of someone who will oversee the Mueller probe with perfect judgment. No, wait, there shouldn't even be a special counsel because there are people in the Justice Department who can handle the investigation without bias... if we're lucky enough that they're the ones who are appointed to do it and nobody interferes with them, like firing them or pointing a biased person in to supervise them.

Educated observer's report on Russia. Just the kind of rationality we need to read sometimes. Strip away hype, fear, and posturing, and you get this kind of reporting. It's great to have non-hyped, non-scary reporting about Russia.

Educated analysis of Pax Americana. This is a fairly long read as my links go, but worthwhile in that it asks questions and looks behind the explanations and mythology of US policies. I read it with an eye to what realistic expectations should be, not idealized expectations. After all, we live in a real world with many dangers, and you have to respond to danger in ways that are effective.

History lesson about altruism. The US helped a lot of countries through the Marshall Plan, and benefited from the peace and prosperity it fostered. Or we could have had a lot more communism.

Resegregation via charter school. Some places in the US, segregation never ended. Now there is a new way to create it or support it, and it's funded via tax dollars.

Football kneeling protest. I'm a supporter of this protest, which I find to be very dignified and respectful. In fact, I can't find anything disrespectful in it. I liked this statement from one of the leaders of the Philadelphia Eagles about the controversy around the protest. I compare this with the insults leveled at players, and it's no contest whom I respect more.

Helpful information for a rare situation. A woman was recently killed by an alligator in Florida. This report tells how to avoid that (stay far enough away from waterfront at dusk, nighttime, and dawn), how to run, and how to fight if you need to. Not much to remember. Good advice.

Copy-paste internet threat. I didn't realize this was a thing. I don't believe the threats made against me over the internet. A few people may be savvy enough to figure out who I am, but very few. So the threats are so likely to be rubbish that I've never worried. But it's incredible and ridiculous to find out there is a meme of threat--a veritable script that people copy and adapt. I guess it's too much work to make up your own bizarre threats, so just borrow something.


Friday, June 15, 2018

Spies from the FBI, oh my!

Since it was leaked that the FBI had an informant contact members of the Trump campaign, Trump has been trying to frame it as though his campaign was infiltrated and spied on for political purposes. This is most likely a mountain of hogwash, as it so often is when Trump opens his mouth or gets on twitter. The guy is such a glib liar that he probably only accidentally utters the truth. As a person who cares deeply about truth, I find this appalling. Trump, on the other hand, finds lies to be completely normal.

So Trump says his campaign was being spied on, and he calls it 'Spygate.' What do others, who perhaps remember what truth means, say about this?

There's an interesting contrast between this article from Huffpost and this one from Fox News. The Huffpost article focuses on a former Trump aide who's embarrassed by his conspiracy theorizing. The Fox article, starting at the headline, exaggerates the FBI operation as a 'web of informant contacts.'

If you swallow the story that this was politically motivated spying, then it looks terrible. Trump wants people to swallow that. Along those lines, Trump regularly claims that the Russia issue is a hoax, ignoring all the parts of it that are real and are known to really have occurred. Again, Trump doesn't care about the truth, just his narrative.

Trey Gowdy, as a former prosecutor, has some idea what is required in an investigation. He has spoken clearly that he supports this part of the FBI investigation:
"Based on what I have seen, I don’t know what the FBI could have done or should have done other than run out a lead that someone loosely connected with the campaign was making assertions about Russia..."
But conservatives can't agree on this, not even at National Review. To some of them, the FBI crossed a line that must not be crossed! They don't bother to say what intelligence agencies or the FBI are supposed to do when there is somewhat credible information of foreign influence on a campaign. Only that it is forbidden to investigate by covertly asking questions of the campaign.

Well, that argument is so weak that it crumbles as soon as someone asks what the FBI should do when it hears of criminal activity like hacking our elections. Critics are left sounding as though they want the FBI to 'stand down' -- not do anything. Maybe the FBI should go on twitter and label it all a hoax. Maybe the FBI no longer needs to do investigations and work to protect the US and enforce the laws, but can become a post-reality entity where truth is optional and random. But I'd kind of prefer them to continue the role they had before reality TV took over the presidency and so much of the electorate.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

May links 2

Conservative Supreme Court prunes worker rights. I appreciate both sides of this argument in general, but I think this isn't a good ruling. If we want a strong middle class in this country, we need support for workers. That's how we got the middle class.

Shootings. An account of what the school shooter from Santa Fe, TX said and did while killing his victim. Not a vantage point we usually get. Some details of police actions. Young Texans will probably not being leading marches for changes in gun laws. Accounts from first responders to the Las Vegas shooting. There were a lot of first responders, and it was more like a military battle because the shooter was so well armed and prepared.

More on Russia. For reference. The fake ads that Russians put out. So many that they are condensed in zip files. I don't really want to look, but I know I should. Mueller apparently used a Russian oligarch for a sensitive mercy mission. Not scandalous. Background on an undercover FBI informant who tried to find out what was happening in the Trump campaign. Trey Gowdy, in his sometimes-straight-sometimes-hack way, says that the FBI use of an informant in the investigation was appropriate. Great background and historical perspective on Russia.

Memorial Day reflection. When war becomes mundane and most Americans become detached, wars can linger and not be resolved.

Sessions changed immigration enforcement. Revealing and fascinating article about how Jeff Sessions (the Attorney General) is changing immigration enforcement. Chilling, surprising.

Background on fentanyl. I have some knowledge of fentanyl, but this was instructive even to me.

Timeline on scandal. Trump friends Michael Cohen and Elliott Broidy were gathering a lot of money. At this point in the investigation, it may be a partial timeline, but it's already long.

Revealing more sexual harassment. University of Southern California is being sued over the behavior of one of its gynecologists. Surprise - complaints were ignored.

More on the gold standard. One of my pet peeves is people who dogmatically think that the gold standard is workable. Another revealing story about FDR and his odd relationship with the gold standard.

Well, then don't act like one. Lawyer claims he's not a racist after his non-racist rant went viral. And that kind of rant isn't popular in New York City, the home of large number of immigrants.