Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Ukraine update

Impeachment hearings are moving along, but that doesn't interest me too much. The process is going to be something, and it probably won't be outrageous though the Republicans will claim it is.

Here are some interesting developments:

Follow the phone calls. Who was Giuliani calling and what were the conversations? The intelligence committee subpoenaed records and got the info. This would be an interesting avenue if Giuliani could be induced to answer honestly. But that is so unlikely.

Withholding foreign aid. Trump has done this before, with big announcements about how countries to our south aren't complying with our reasonable requests. This article is a reminder of how foreign aid is handled in legitimate ways. It looks decidedly different from what happened with Ukrainian aid. Damn, I wish the Republicans would stop covering up for Trump and acknowledge that evidence right in front of them.

Dog and pony show. Hilarious attempt by Giuliani to shift the narrative to Biden. Yeah, right. Only propaganda outlets will show his version. News has erupted all over the Ukraine situation, and Giuliani's version is clearly not real news.

Image: axios.com

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Amazing theorizing about the Trump 2016 campaign

We all know about Occam's razor--that the simplest explanation is usually correct. We need a pithy name for a complementary principle--the bizarre and nutso complexity that is piled high to support a conspiracy theory.

A column in National Review inspired this realization. Here's the subhead:

The State Department and an Australian diplomat grossly exaggerated Papadopoulos's claims - which were probably false anyway.

The author makes such leaps of assumption. Papadopoulos didn't know about the DNC hacked emails (true) and didn't know about any emails (a big leap). Mifsud didn't tell Papadopoulos about any emails because there is only Papadopoulos's claim about that (true, but why would Papadopoulos fabricate that?) Mifsud wasn't a Russian agent as Papa believed, but was most likely a British one (because the author wants it to be so).

When Mifsud was interviewed by the FBI in 2017, he denied saying anything to Papa about emails. This must be true because Mifsud wasn't charged with lying to the FBI. (Never mind that he perhaps wasn't charged because they couldn't prove this was a lie.) Also, the Mueller report didn't say Mifsud knew about Russian intelligence, therefore Mifsud must not know anything about Russian intelligence (because the Mueller report contain all known information and nothing is true unless reported there).

And on, and on, and on. There is no evidence Papa told the Australian diplomat about the Russian approach because the Aussie can't be trusted, and made the whole thing up.

Yes, there's more. It just keeps on this way, doubting everything except when it's convenient not to doubt something.

The only interesting possible fact in the whole piece is that Steele passed some information on to an FBI legal attache on July 6, 2016. Maybe this was before the Australian wrote his meeting with Papa for the second time, and with much more urgency due to the leak of DNC emails. It should be possible to check this. I'm certainly not taking the word of this author. Nonetheless, it is worth noting the information for future checking.

The upshot of the whole 'it didn't happen' is that there was no other information given to the FBI about Russian contacts with the Trump campaign except for the Steele shitty and questionable research.

But maybe there was... Maybe the Mifsud, Papa, and Australian connection was as reported: a solicitation by Mifsud which Papa spilled to an Australian. Shall I apply Occam's razor?

Image: amazon.com

Messy questions about Ukraine

I'm not trying to derail the inquiry into Trump pressuring Ukraine for dirt on Biden while withholding aid that they sorely needed. That was horrendous, and so like Trump not to consider the legal and ethical implications.

However, I wonder about a couple issues laying around from 2016. It's pretty obvious to me that Biden's son cashed in, and that wasn't seemly. (It's not illegal isn't a compelling argument.) What about the black ledger that showed Manafort receiving millions of dollars. There are charges that it's a forgery. I hadn't thought of that possibility, but maybe we should consider it. It turned up at a convenient time, and it was payback from some Ukrainians to Manafort, an adviser to their recently departed, dearly hated ex-president.

Has the black ledger been verified? It contains a listing of disbursements. It ought to be possible to check that money leaving wherever and going somewhere else, right? I looked for information about the accuracy of the black ledging, and found nothing. So I can't say it's real or it's a forgery.

That's one piece of the GOP alternative reality we've been hearing about. Here's another: in 2016, the Russians weren't interfering in the election, it was the Ukrainians trying to help Hillary Clinton, probably with a big dollop of conspiring by the Deep State.

What else? The main reporter of the Ukraine-did-it story was a quasi-journalist named John Solomon who wrote for The Hill website. His colleagues weren't happy with him, raised questions about his journalistic standards (reasonable questions probably), and eventually he moved on from the hostile environment. I didn't find any reputable site that has confirmed his reporting though there's been plenty of time for it.

Solomon's questionable stories also had an outlet (wait for it) on Fox News' Hannity hour. Hannity (another fine journalist) is pissed now because fingers are pointing at him, and he claims he was barely involved. It was also interesting to see the ambassador Yovanovitch was removed largely due to unsubstantiated reports that she criticized Trump in private conversations. This fascinating source (news for Russian-speaking Americans) shows a picture of the letter of accusation. But, I wonder, could someone make up a story to get the ambassador removed? This gives a great glimpse into the Ukraine-did-it theory, provided by a Russian source.

Image: kyivpost.com

Extras. Sondland bristled at being called part of a rogue operation or irregular channel for foreign policy. Everyone at the top knew about it, and he was doing Trump's bidding.

Parnas (one of the Ukrainians arrested just before getting on an airplane) bragged about being on a secret mission for Trump. Supposedly he'll be cooperating with prosecutors. However,  he might be as reliable as other lowlifes are.

The new Zelensky administration in Ukraine is cleaning out the prosecutors' offices (take 3?). There are complaints that they are just trying to bury information about corruption. The link also has more about the black ledger.

Sondland runs out the clock at his House testimony while trying to avoid the obvious conclusion that Trump woud benefit from Biden being investigated by Ukraine.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Conservative media lies again, Chapter XXX

For all the complaints about the real bias in the MSM, they have standards for not lying, and they rarely do what conservative media has just done. A couple days ago I saw reports that perhaps the former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch had committed perjury in her testimony in closed hearings in the House. This story was featured in prime time by Fox News opinion host Tucker Carlson, who has now shown himself to be a bald-faced liar, as are many at Fox News. From their website:
However, emails obtained by Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight" showed that in fact, Yovanovitch had responded to Carey's initial Aug. 14 email, writing that she "would love to reconnect and look forward to chatting with you."
They pretend that this doesn't square with Yovanovitch's testimony. However, that impression is due to them ignoring the rest of the email from Yovanovitch, which says:
I would love to reconnect and look forward to chatting with you. I have let EUR [Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs] know that you are interested in talking and they will be in touch with you shortly.
So Yovanovitch told the congressional staffer that she was letting her higher-ups know about the communication, which is the above-board operating procedure.

So did Carlson neglect to get the entire email, which would be poor journalistic practice? Or did he ignore her clear statement in order to make it seem like she was having secret communications with House staff? Either way, Carlson was unethical. Big surprise!

This story was picked up by various conservative media outlets, but not by MSM. Not because the MSM is biased, but because they have standards and probably smelled a rat, or maybe even saw that it was a lie when one read the entire email.

There don't appear to be any retractions or clarifications by various conservative outlet, so, as usual, they aren't correcting their mistakes, and just letting the lies stand. That is so despicable. Plus I found this gem of disinformation too, also about Yovanovitch. Conservative media seems not to have principles that include telling the truth. Everyone watching/reading them should be aware of that.

Image: bitchute.com

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Republicans Strike Back... they hope.

Republicans are fighting against the Ukraine scandal and subsequent impeachment inquiry with all they have. They continue to push the theory that the FBI, CIA, and other departments were/are full of corrupt Dem-sympathetic officials who have illegally targeted Trump. The Horowitz Inspector General (IG) report was supposed to blow it out of the water. That didn't happen. Now the investigation by US attorney John Durham is supposed to unmask this deep state conspiracy. 

I doubt it will happen. As we saw with the Mueller investigation and IG report, almost all of the big pieces leaked well before the reports were published. So Durham will probably not have anything beyound the known bits on Comey, Strzok and Page, McCabe, Bruce Ohr in the State Department, and how the FBI used the Steele dossier. I doubt there will be any smoking gun showing that the Trump campaign was set up by the FBI or CIA, with a phony approach by Mifsud that they orchestrated. I predict that will turn out to be true as reported, that Mifsud offered info on Hillary Clinton, and the campaign was interested. That Papadopoulos drunkenly mentioned it to an Australian diplomat, who eventually reported it through channels to the FBI. 

Their grand hopes of indictments and perp walks of these heinous Dem-leaning traitors isn't going to happen. But we shall all see.

Image: youtube.com

Extra. This column points out how the GOPers are using slander as a counterattack. Lt. Col. Vindman who was injured in Iraq--has a grudge against Trump and is lying. Also, he's a never-Trumper, meaning he isn't loyal. Not loyal  to Trump--to me, it sounds like Trump thinks he's running a banana republic. 

Monday, November 4, 2019

Ukraine saga continues

I don't know how many threads I'll have on this Ukraine saga. I feel vindicated for focusing on the prosecutors and ambassadors, but perhaps I deserve credit only for reading the transcript of the phone call and the whistleblower's letter.

The House Democrats started private, closed-door testimony from some of those involved or with knowledge of the situation. The Republicans have been yelling foul on whatever grounds they can think of. They claimed the testimony was wrong because there was no formal vote, so the Dems held a formal vote, which passed. The Republicans said the closed-door testimony was wrong, and even tried to stage a sit-in. Starting today, the Dems have are releasing transcripts of the testimony taken so far. It's fairly damning. Trump claims that the Dems are going to change the words, but he looks like a fool on that account.

So far, a fair number of people, mostly connected to the State Department, have talked about Giuliani running his own Ukraine policy that was focused on getting dirt on the Biden family. Some of the people testifying have been:
This list will probably grown. I keep hearing that what Giuliani has done and what Trump has let him do are without precedent for modern times in the State Department. I certainly don't remember dealings like this, though there were occasionally rumors of secret underhanded dealings like Bush Sr. doing something-something. What we have here is much more than rumor. 

Republicans are fighting back with all they have. They continue to push the theory that the FBI, CIA, and other departments were/are full of corrupt Dem-sympathetic officials who have illegally targeted Trump. But that's the subject of my next post.

Vindman going to testify. Traitor or patriot?
Image: nationalreview.com

Update 11/5/19. The House released transcripts of two ambassadors (Volker and Sondland). Sondland had a mysterious change in his memory, and now says that he told the Ukrainians that they'd have to announce the investigations for aid to be freed. Sondland still provided a bit of a figleaf for Trump, saying it was his 'presumption' that the aid was tied because he heard it hadn't been released. Sondland confirmed that Giuliani was the key person on Ukraine, and Trump didn't want to deal with it, but directed the ambassadors to Giuliani.

Also this quote from a federal prosecutor:
Now they've got this whole other crazy defense about there's no corrupt intent, but these guys haven't done their legal researching and corrupt intent under the law means improper purpose. And when you're using the levers of government and monies appropriated by Congress to further your own re-election effort and use it to try and bribe and extort a foreign government, I mean, what more improper purpose can you get?  - 
Update 11/7/19. Two more articles about the released transcripts. Both give an inside view of what the testimony was like. Taylor--resolutely sticking to the facts, supported by his meticulous notes. Sondland--buffeted, not knowing what to say, having trouble remembering.

Update 11/16/19. A taut, thriller-like retelling of the whistleblower's actions and many others. John Bolton has the most memorable lines: calling Giuliani a human hand-grenade and instructing an aide to tell <someone> that he isn't part of the drug deal being cooked up. 

October links

(And a few left over from September. Oops, it's November already.)

Hating on climate change. It's no surprise to me that nasty conservative trolls would hate on teenager Greta Thunberg for her message that the people currently in charge of the world aren't doing enough. I've written elsewhere that models for climate change haven't been strong, but there is also enough solid data to be very worried.

Intolerance on campus. I hear screeching about it, but here is a solid court case about bullying of Christian groups by campus officials.

The fear among the conservatives. They fear being overwhelmed by the left and forced to give up their religious beliefs. Considering the disrespect for religious beliefs on the left, I have to say it seems like a rational fear.

Why Trudeau almost lost. Canada is in good shape, which allows lesser issues to create more fractures than before.

Iran and Russia interfere. ... in the US via Facebook.

Tough politics in Texas. The Texas House speaker is out after being stabbed in the back while conspirimg to stab other Republican reps in the back. Do I like anyone in this mess?

Image: edenpoliticalcartoons.com

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Turkey, Syria, the Kurds, and Trump

In the midst of the whistleblower scandal, Trump announced a total withdrawal of US troops from Syria. I haven't followed the whole Syria conflict closely--it's complex, far from here, so the news is likely to be fairly low quality. It would be hard for me to sort the spin from reality.

However, Trump's withdrawal announcement was clearly very abrupt. It looks like Turkey's dictator  Erdogan had been threatening to invade Kurdish-held areas for months, and he finally flipped the switch. Trump didn't know what to do, so he claims that he's withdrawing the troops, not due to pressure (which would make him look weak) but because the US doesn't need to be involved in endless wars.

Hew and cry because it looks like the US is abandoning our Kurdish allies to be slaughtered by the Turks (not their friends). Also, the Kurds are holding thousands of Isis fighter and their families in camps, and may release them under the onslaught. Cue Trump to say stupid, insensitive things like where were the Kurds on D-Day?

Two days later, Trump sends VP Pence to try to negotiate. Oh, there was a childish letter in the mix somewhere too. Pence gets an agreement from Erdogan about some limits on the invasion. The stated goal for Turkey is to secure a 20 mile wide strip along the border so the Kurds in Syria can't aid the Kurds in Turkey. When I heard that, it didn't seem too bad to me as long as the Turks weren't killing civilians or Kurdish fighters not involved in Turkey. I have my doubts about Turkey's claims about Kurdish fighters, knowing that Turkey has a long history of oppressing the Kurds. But it's possible that their goal is only to set up a secure zone.

This is a big sudden shift in the military situation, and it's accompanied by new alliances. Turkey has been cozying up to Russia in trade and military equipment for a while, but this is the clearest rapprochement so far. Syria isn't happy about the deal due to the loss of territory to Turkey, and they responded with their own surprising alliance with the Kurds. The US and Iran seem to be left out of the deal-making--we don't think they'll do a deal with each other as the only ones left at the dance.

After a messy war and a messy stand-off, this might bring a more stable peace. We'll have to see. One late change is that Trump was convinced to leave some US troops in Syria to control oil fields. He needed the issue dumbed down to that point since fair treatment and loyalty to our allies mean nohting to him.

The whole Syrian war has defied early expectations. At first it looked like an Arab spring uprising, but then everyone and their brother got involved with providing arms and pursuing agendas. The Islamic butchers known as Isis became the horrid common enemy that appeared even worse than the pre-war status quo. Perhaps they saved Assad even more than Russia did. Very strange indeed.

It's hard for me to guess what the ramifications of the US move will be on the future of the Middle East and US policies there. It seems bad policy to flush longterm alliances away, and even worse ethics if it leads to massacres. I can only hope the price isn't too high for both us and the Kurds.

Image: aa.com.tr

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

September links


Truth-telling about guns. Wapo

No Charlottesville in Boston. In my home state, some twerps tried to have a Straight Pride Rally. Poor turn-out. Related. An article from the end of 2015 predicting the rise of white nationalism in the US.

Unscrutinized law. So much of law is about examination, scrutiny, testing in cases that are written down and reviewed. So it's a surprise the some law isn't subject to this when it's DOJ policy.

Clear-headed assessment of mass shootings. How big is the risk? That's a very fair question to ask.

More mass killings being twarted. More people are taking threats seriously and intervening. This time a teenage girl was stopped after buying a semi-auto rifle.

Late-breaking story about Russia. Most of the news about Russia interfering in the US election, and the responses to it, are well-known at this point. Here are two reports about a highly-placed spy in the Kremlin who was spirited away to safety at the beginning of the Trump presidency because Trump might have been careless and leaked info exposing him. Also a large section of the report on Russian interference was released by the Senate committee that is striving miraculously to be non-partisan.

How Trump treats advisers. Disrespectfully, we know. With the firing of John Bolton, we have a few more stories with insights. Trump hires 'brands' and Bolton was a well-known brand. The four categories of official Trump advisers, from 'shiny new toy' to 'fired via tweet' and other pithy observations.

Very few swing voters. Less than 5.5% are both undecided and moderate.

Big story on the Supreme Court? WaPo reports that getting a justice onto the Supreme Court is now so important that the ethics are shunted to the side.

Image: usatoday.com

Saturday, September 28, 2019

The start of the stupid Watergate

I've been tracking the developing story about a whistleblower report out of the intelligence services. That was the first bit of info. Next was that Trump made an improper promise to a foreign leader. Next was that it was the leader of Ukraine. (What????? Not Russia????) That was only a week ago.

Now a lot more is known. It's been like a fast moving wildfire, and definitely not contained. Congress wants the whistleblower report, the Inspector General says it should be given to Congress, but the administration overruled that. With those kind of details, it's going to be hard to prevent the release of the report, but the Trump administration is still trying to.

To placate the public, or as a figleaf, the administration released the official transcript of the call between Trump and the president of Ukraine. It's not much of a figleaf, and it won't help. The IG report will have to come out. This is yet another case of:

What you want to hide won't stay hidden.

Well, that's great. My kids will get to experience their own version of Watergate, but with a dumber president. So dumb that he doesn't realize you can't ask the president of Ukraine during an official phone call to investigate the Biden family when Joe Biden happens to be 1) well known, 2) your political opponent, and 3) running for president.

No, Donald Trump, you can't ask for that openly because this isn't a banana republic. The president of the US doesn't get to create goon squads, and he pays price if he does it and it's found out. Doing it offshore and leaning on a vulnerable country makes it even more unethical. We have rules here.

So many links I'll just list them:

Letters to, from, about the Inspector General

Oh, that idiot Rudy Giuliani was pushing the new prez of Ukraine about Biden. Does Giuliani know how to do anything secretly?

The apologists at National Review think it's not a big deal because the president has lots of leeway in running foreign affairs. Hey, they seem to miss that this isn't just a legalistic question.

The conservatives at Washington Examiner get the issues much more clearly. Did Trump try to force Ukraine to do dirty work against one of his political opponents

Seven Dem representatives, all with military and/or intelligence backgrounds (not flaming antifa types) think this behavior from Trump is impeachment-worthy.

How Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine until it started getting hot. No one in Congress knew why, and people started asking questions.

The figleaf - Trump releases the transcript of a conversation with the president of Ukraine. Commentators at WaPo annotate the conversation. Not the most insightful, but worth reading.

The top intelligence official threatened to resign. He will be testifying before Congress, and maybe won't be stonewalling (as the weasly Attorney General usually does). We'll find out soon.

Republican senators enact a scene from The Emperor's New Clothes as they ignore the elephant in the room but worry about the precedent of releasing the transcript.

In a huge irony, the president of Ukraine was visiting Washington today, and had to play along with the charade. That's is just one of the laugh lines.

Related: McConnell finally stopped delaying legislation/money to bolster election security. He earned the name Moscow Mitch for delaying this money for so long. Why now, we must wonder?


A bunch of short, helpful articles.

The White House accidentally sent their talking points to some Dems along with the GOP congress critters. Oops. Some other GOP excuses deconstructed.

The Dems should be inspired by Ulysses S. Grant. He was surrounded by commanders who were paralyzed by fear of Robert E. Lee, but he managed to get them to calm down, take command, and take action. Likewise, Trump will be belligerent, loud, nasty, and unrelenting. The Dems must make sure this doesn't send them into paralysis.

Image: washingtonpost.com

Update 10/9/19. The original memo that the whistleblower wrote (to himself?) one day after the infamous call. Here's the most pointed part:
The official stated that there was already a conversation underway with White House lawyers about how to handle the discussion because, in the official's view, the President had clearly committed a criminal act by urging a foreign power to investigate a U.S. person for the purposes of advancing his own reelection bid in 2020.
Other updates. The Trump administration wanted contracts from Ukraine the most, until Trump wanted political dirt. Some of the GOP senators know that some of the spin (lies) about Biden is wrong. Two GOP senators signed a letter back in 2016 about the level of corruption. Sen. Johnson appears to have forgotten or sold his soul, or both.

Update 10/10/19. Intelligent analysis, mostly of public opinion and the straits GOP politicians are in. Only 17% of Americans think Trump spoke appropriately in the phone call.

Update 11/1/19. The Republicans in the closed door impeachment hearings are trying to unmask the whistleblower and tie anyone who isn't a loyal Trumper to Cjristopher Steele or other boogeymen. Polling shows Americans continue to doubt the actions of Trump, more GOPers being critical.

Ukraine: Ambassadors and prosecutors

Poor Ukraine. It's not good to be Russia's neighbor. They steal elections, get ousted, then steal large amounts of territory. And you're a football between Russian and the US.

But I'll be focusing on how the US has manipulated Ukraine. Starting in 2016, it seems like the Hillary campaign went to the EU/US aligned government (the successor to the ousted Russian-aligned government) and got information that was harmful to Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman for Trump. They also helped with the Mueller investigation.

That's two strikes, especially if you're as vindictive as Trump is. However, Ukraine has lots of backers in Congress, and some in executive branch, but it seems like Trump was not going to be at all sympathetic. Trump did have the problem of looking too pro-Russian, and he figured a way to counter that. He'd give weapons to Ukraine, which is something Obama was very cautious about due to the unintended consequences of wars spreading and weapons being used in unforeseen ways.

So Trump gave Ukraine weapons, and got himself some talking points. He also got some things he didn't talk about. Ukraine stopped working with the Mueller team, shutting down all cooperation. This was back in April 2018.

The Poroshenko government starts playing nice with the Trump administration. But there's trouble in Ukraine, where corruption is rampant and unpopular. Poroshenko is voted out in April 2019, and a new government by a comedian is in. The Trump administration doesn't know if the new government will play ball the way the Poroshenko government learned to do,

Leaning on the New Government

So money stops flowing from the US to Ukraine as Trump waits to see how cooperative the new government will be. One thing Trump has on his wishlist is dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Giuliani will be the go-between and enforcer, making sure the dirty deed is getting done.

With this background, it's not hard to understand the phone call. Zelensky, the new Ukrainian president, is kissing up as hard as he can, It starts with Zelensky saying how Trump's surprise electoral win inspired his own win, and a mention of draining the swamp. Major sucking sounds from Zelensky, but what choice was he have? Zelensky is very eager to conduct whatever investigation Trump asks for, and even asks for additional information from the US that won't be helpful. Is that a coded way to ask Trump what he wants them to say?

On the other hand, he makes no promises about who his new chief prosecutor would be, even after Trump says that the last one was very good and very fair. When you read below about the chief prosecutors, you have to wonder if anyone fits that description.

The Prosecutors

The two prosecutor to be aware of are Shokin and Lutsenko. Shokin was the corrupt prosecutor in 2016 whom Biden, the EU, and the IMF forced out. Supposedly he was investigating Hunter Biden at Burisma, a gas company, but most reports say that the investigation was not ongoing.

Lutsenko was a real piece of work. He was the chief prosecutor under Poroshenko, and he lost his job when Poroshenko lost reelection. (Hmmmm, lost reelection... that sounds good.) Lutsenko accused the US ambassador of giving him a list of people and companies who couldn't be investigated or charged. But it was all a lie. That gives a sense of the ethics of this guy. It seems possible to me that both Giuliani and Trump were pushing Zelensky to re-instate him. It's no wonder since he was probably playing ball with the Trump administration, taking their direction to stop cooperating with the Mueller investigation and who knows what else. He seems to have been a good toady (to Trump) who lost his job due to Ukrainian public dissatisfaction and 'voting the crooks out.'

The Ambassadors

The most important ambassador is Marie Yovanovitch. She is the one Trump mentioned disrespectfully. Lutsenko accused her of interfering and ordering him not to investigate people, and she was removed by Trump for not playing ball. She's a career diplomat, well versed in Slavic countries, and well respected by her colleagues according to reports. Perhaps she's too professional, especially when the prez wants his personal lawyer to tell a country that they should investigate his personal political rival. Basically, she was stabbed by Trump and his dog pack.

Other ambassadors. Volker    Volker resigned.
Sondland. More serious than Trump's usual backers.

What will the Ukrainian government do now that the pressure is no longer covert? It seems to me that the Ukrainians can make their own choices. They have enough supprt from Americans and in Congress that Trump can't put the screws on them again. Relations between the US and Ukraine will be closely scrutinized. Giuliani's travel will be closely scrutinized. Trump and Giuliani's plans - simply screwed. Such poetic justice in that.

Funny bits: President Zelensky has won a not-so-nice nickname in Ukraine: Monica Zelensky. Oooh, burn. But he's also helped shine a light on the cockroach named Trump.

Giuliani is spinning like mad. He's trying to indicate that he had State Department backing, but that doesn't help the State Department look good. It just shows how many people didn't feel they could push back from Trump's vendetta. However, Giuliani may have his own vendetta against Biden. For one thing, Biden landed a punch against Guiliani during Giuliani's campaign for president. 'Every sentence he says has a noun, a verb, and 9/11.' It was quite a takedown.

Recap: A who's who from CNN. A bunch of lies from an opinion writer at Fox, including the statement (as though it's fact) that Joe Biden received over $1 billion in bribes from China.

Five amigos
Image: dailymail.co.uk

Update 10/3/19. Texts among State Departnment personnel and others show that Ukraine was being squeezed, though they were careful not to put the most damning info into texts.

Update 10/23/19. Lots of state department folks are testifying in the House. The replacement for the ousted ambassador was particularly searing. Trump called the guy a 'never-Trumper' and doesn't want to hire anymore like him. Maybe he wants clear loyalty (echoes of what Comey reported). In another (unraveling) angle, Giuliani was working with some rather unsavory characters, and probably even more still to be uncovered and possibly indicted.

Update 10/24/19. More details. Trump wanted the Ukrainians to publicly announce investigations as a sign of their strong commitment. Plus this tidbit: two dozen House GOPers tried to storm a closed hearing, and complain about it being secret. But Trey Gowdy, a former House GOPer and future lawyer to Trump, is on video saying how open hearings are useless, while private hearings are effective.

Update 11/7/19. More about the feud between Giuliani and Biden. When it might have started--from a journalist who isn't exactly a friend of Giuliani. Giuliani insulting Biden in 2012. Biden's quips about Giuliani are lost, but there is a bit of context to help the imagination.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Weather-gate and Trump's stubbornness

Trump lies again and again. This isn't a surprise by now, but it's getting dumber. Trump made a mistake by saying Alabama was in range of a hurricane. Instead of correcting his mistake, or just letting it go, he doubled down repeatedly. It got too much media coverage because it was such foolish behavior. Even cowardly agencies under his thumb got involved.

It's hard to say what was the worst part of this unnecessary debacle. It wouldn't have been at all bad if it had ended with this (after Trump erroneously said Alabama could be hit):
[The] Birmingham office of the National Weather Service, in response to a flurry of calls and inquiries, issued a correction on Twitter, saying, "Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian." -- GQ magazine
But, nooooo, Trump couldn't let that stand. He couldn't admit even a tiny mistake. He had to blather (incorrectly) that Alabama had been a very likely target in the storm, including nonsense that there was a 95% chance of Alabama being hit at one point in the modeling. That was Trump being his usual fucking egotistical maniac self. 

Then Trump marked up an official weather service map to include Alabama. This is almost like changing the answer key on a test. Trump is so divorced from the truth that he'll pretend official information doesn't say what it says. And of course he used it as another skirmish in his war on the media, particularly CNN. 

This is all a game to Trump. The guy has no respect for truth or science, just for power. I'm absurdly eager for a break from this stupidity.

Wait, where did that black line come from?
Image: newshounds.us

Update 9/9/19. A number of officials in the weather/oceanic agency are loudly standing up for the scientists and accurate reporting and are pointing out how the mealy-mouthed communications supporting Trump are wrong. It looks like they are daring Trump to fire them. I don't think they'll be fired because it would be too obvious. How will Trump react? We'll see.

Update 9/11/19. An opinion column on this debacle with a some new info. The Secretary of Commerce ordered the support of the naked prez on pain of beheading, or similar. Sigh. Truth is not an option. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

More August links

Antifa is not the biggest violent threat. ... no matter what GOP pols say. The alt-right, neo-Nazis, white nationalists are a much bigger threat, but it's not politically useful for Republicans to acknowledge. They want antifa as the boogeyman. Related: A guy wearing a MAGA hat was beat up. Oh, those violent lefties. Except that he went to several bars soliciting fights. In video, we can see the lefties telling him that no one is going outside to fight him. Ummm... never mind.

Dictator-like move in Great Britain. Boris Johnson pulls a nearly unprecedented move to prevent Parliament from unseating him. I think Parliament will have a few days in session, and hopefully will remove him. Update: The British Supreme Court struck down the closing of Parliament, so Boris Johnson will have to face them.

Learning about the 2nd amendment. Here. Quite comprehensive.

Problems with e-verify surface. After a major raid on poultry processors. Good info to know.

Election prediction succeeded in 2018. How about 2020? I'm not unbiased, but I see skewing of the prediction, with progressive being favored. The political scientist points out that progressive did better than expected in Texas and Georgia compared to blue dogs in Missouri and Indiana. But they all lost. What about in Arizona? Well, it was a centrist Dem who won there. Odd to ignore that. Related. The Trump campaign is very worried about suburban women - worried that they'll lose the 2020 election.

Red flag law in California. Not a big sample size, but none of them became mass shooters. Frankly, we can't know what was prevented, if anything. But prevention is a worthy goal, especially considering that we are preventing deaths. In the last two weeks, there have been a spate of reports of people arrested for having caches of guns and worrisome plans, but before anyone was shot. That seems preferable to me, right?

A moderate view on US intervention. Police the worst places to shut down the worst of the safe havens.

Image: joe.ie

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Epstein death cranks up the conspiracy machines

I've written about Epstein, the pedophile, before. He's a favorite of those who like to lie about Bill Clinton because Epstein was so vile in his sexual predations of teenage girls. However, people who do this rarely base their claims in fact or careful research of news sources. They usually repeat garbage without a care that it is garbage.

Now many of those same people believe that Epstein was murdered, not that he killed himself in a locked cell that he didn't share with anyone. Again, facts are simply an impediment to the story they want to believe and tell.

This article, by someone who has worked in the penal system, calls those stories regurgitated misinformation. That's kinder than I would be, as you shall soon see. Another article by a convict goes into detail of how one could commit suicide in prison, and it sounds fairly doable unless you have a minder in the cell with you, which Epstein didn't. He adds that soaping the sheet will make it move more easily and cause fractures in the neck, as the autopsy found.

Here is a piece of stupidity from Judith Miller. Of course, anyone who would go from the NYT to Fox isn't interested foremost in accurate journalism. The headline makes me roll my eyes. Miller claims it's almost impossible to kill yourself in prison? Well, there are plenty of reports of suicides in prison - did she miss those? Of course the article doesn't actually dwell on Miller's tiny knowledge of prisons, so it doesn't live up to the hyped headline. I hope Miller enjoys her dirty pay to write such trash.

So to all the people who believe so passionately that Epstein was murdered, start producing some definite evidence, like defensive wounds, payments to the guards, video even. Otherwise your tales are full of bullshit, and just plain ridiculous. And you probably believe a lot of other rubbish too. I'll be ridiculing your stupidity as loudly as I can.

Image: nypost.com

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Shootings and August links

In less than 24 hours, there were two major mass shootings, following up a mass shooting at a festival in California (so three in fairly short span). The shooting in El Paso, TX targeted Mexicans. The shooting in Dayton, OH was by a young man with a long history of violent fantasies, including having a kill list and a rape list while he was in high school. (Google these shootings for details. I won't choose one link as representative). This article about the background of the El Paso shooter is chilling: mostly 'normal' but with all too familiar undercurrents including bullying at school along racial lines, hopelessness about job prospects while automation continues, and open racist sentiments expressed after Trump was elected.

Ignore the headline of this article (Washington Post again - a good source). It's not so much that there's pushback from the NRA on gun legislation, as there is deep worry from GOP legislators. Can they stay in office if they sign on to gun legislation? Probably not if they depend on votes from GOPers, which they do. According to polls, the wide majority of Republicans are still against even partial gun control measures. So it's less the NRA standing in the way, but instead the very popular Guns R Us ethos among Republicans.

Faltering Dem candidates. A Politico author contrasts the Republicans, who understand the importance of legacy and a winning historical narrative, with the Democrats, who are sniping at each other over the party's recent past. Part of this is due to a leadership vacuum since Obama is gone and the Clintons are gone, and both failed in some major ways.

Stealth reform measures for Social Security. Why hasn't this been big news? With funding issues looming, the Dems in the House are working on a big change to SS. This should be drawing a lot of attention, debate, number-crunching, and fact-checking, but the press barely utters a peep. Sure, it's not likely to get through the Senate, but it's a real proposal with seemingly real numbers, and these numbers are likely to be the basis for future work on SS.

Zero interest on bonds. A big difference from when I was young is that now the return on bonds is almost nothing. I find this fascinating. The world is awash in money chasing after profits. We've created so much wealth, and so much paper or digital money that there isn't enough ways to spend it or invest it. This doesn't worry me, however. We won't turn dirt poor even if there's a crash. There will just be another inflation via QE (quantitative easing) as there was last time.

Update on Gaza. Tensions rise and fall, but nobody wants a repeat of the last useless, destructive war. Progress!

Image: wikipedia.org

Extras. Gun control (now called gun safety) advocacy group shows how common private sales are without a background check.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

July/August links

Don't forget healthcare.  Oops, the GOP did. They are cheering a lawsuit that may end Obamacare even though they haven't considered the chaos if it's struck down. There should be a special word for this beyond 'unbelievable stupid.' Two articles on this: the first features the full-on stupidity of some GOPers; the second features the beginnings of a GOP plan from those that aren't complete morons. And a bit more about the situation.

Walking the high-wire in the Middle East. Qatar is doing this successfully, to the benefit of themselves and the US, and maybe others.

Canadian healthcare. It's very popular with Canadians. We should be taking a look, but most conservatives simply snipe at it.

Lindsay Graham stumbles. He used to be John McCain's best friend. Now he wants to be Trump's sidekick. Sad to find out that he was really just a sidekick with no backbone or moral compass.

Early primary prediction. This article predicts the three frontrunners in the Dem primary based on big donors. It might be a good test of 1) accuracy, and 2) whether only big donors matter.

Predictions about the Iran conflict. Probably no war.

McConnell helps the Russians. McConnell was called out in a big way, and he was mighty angry about it. Nonetheless, he earned it.

Furor over Trump tweets again. What this week? He told 4 Dem congresswomen to (fucking) leave the country.

Bathroom issue ends in a whimper. N. Carolina and their horror at transgender people ends... for now. Related: in Poland, gay pride marchers are attacked.

Armed Iranian speed boats
Image: en.radiofarda.com

Saturday, July 13, 2019

July links

Tangled mess. A knitting site has banned political discussions due to animosity between Trump supporters and opponents. I sympathize. Maybe it was the right move if people were arguing too much and not sharing enough knitting tips.

Election disinformation starting. Example #1 is about Kamala Harris.

NRA meltdown. This is something to watch. The NRA is embroiled in scandal. But it's also a big player in elections. Will we see any effects? Possibly not because it works mostly locally, not from the top down.

2020 forecast. The prediction by a forecaster who did well in the 2018 election.

Russia laughs at Trump display.  Russian media jokes about the lame military display for the Fourth of July. Oh really? Well, who lost the Cold War? That's right, suckers.

Police misbehaving. This isn't really a surprise. Police in a major city are caught making biased remarks on social media, including white supremacist remarks. However, I thought the comment section was worth reading.

Legal analysis on regulation. From a conservative source this time. An analysis of a recent Supreme Court decision. His prediction is a rolling back of government by regulation. I can't comprehend that, and wonder about chaos ensuing until the Supreme Court finds a good balance.

Historical footnote on rich people getting away with crime. Jeffrey Epstein was a known pedophile, and how did he stay out of jail? Good question. It's harder to charge him than you might think, until someone does it and then the other prosecutors look like wimps or worse. One of them being Trump's secretary of labor, now having resigned.

Trump's master stroke. After the grab-them-by-the-pussy video, Trump barely survived. However, he saved himself by going into attack mode during the next debate, and that was admired by much of the GOP.

Image: newstimes.com

Last outpost of crazy: Three stories

Overrun Area 51. Maybe this is a fad, but will some show up on the appointed day? Some humorous predictions of what might happen.

Saliva challenge. There's definitely a new fad for licking things, returning them to shelves, and recording the antics for display on social media. Because the subpar American is that fucking immature and obnoxious.

Zombie pigs. This political commentator takes a break from the heavy stuff to reassure us that we aren't going to be overrun by zombie pig brains. I'm so glad to read this, but it's hadn't been on my list of concerns.

Image: apptopia.com

Those crazy Trump people

Trump, or rather his quisling Wilbur Ross, was caught trying to change the census form on false pretenses. False pretenses, hokey lies, no surprise there. The Supreme Court ruled against it, and people, including the DOJ, thought that was the end. But not with Trump. He blathered that he'd still do it, and finally had to back down. Dum de dum dum. Wapo  Salon

By the way, how did the conservative media report this climb-down? Fox News got around to mentioning it was a climb-down after 10 paragraphs into the story. In the headline, it was the 'Executive Action' as promised.

Then there was a dust-up at some media conference in the White House Rose Garden. A former adviser to the prez was pretending to be a media person, and Trump called on him to ask a question. Can you say 'set-up?' To be clear, the former adviser was Sebastian Gorka, who has a bit of a reputation as less than a moderate.

Later on, Gorka got into a dust-up with a journalist, and nostrils flared, and insults were thrown, and someone would certainly have gotten their ass kicked.. if any punches had been thrown. Luckily the White House lawn isn't a space where impromptu fistfights are allowed. There are scores of secret service agents, and their job doesn't include standing by as fistfights developed. In the videos of the dust-up, there seem to be a few agents moving in while angry words are tossed. So blather but no punches. Just older out-of-shape men pretending to be tough guys. Video and more video.

Hey, in this internet age, everyone's a tough guy. I ought to know, as the toughest hombre on this blog.

Image: washingtonexaminer.com

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Attack on media? Not quite...

I've shown my bias in the title, but why hold back? An antifa group attacked a supposed journalist in Portland, Oregon, the site of frequent clashes between antifa and white nationalist groups. They fight there so often that it's the place to go with you want a street fight, which is one reason it keeps happening. Fight Central will draw the fighters.

Ted Cruz, that paragon of integrity, called for an investigation. It's odd that cells of antifa has been protesting all over the country and there's finally an incident that conservatives can seize on. However, not many are, and I wonder whether they know that it's not going to be a good narrative for them.

When watching the video, you can see Ngo (the supposed journalist) alone within a group of antifa. A couple milkshakes are thrown at him, silly string sprayed on him, a few punches thrown, and lots of yelling. He walks away. Walks, not limps... Those antifa protesters are so incompetent that they can't even beat the shit out of him. It might a pitiful contrast to the video of white nationalists beating a black man in Charlottesville. Though maybe we should be grateful that both victims walked away, and assailants didn't do as much harm as they might have. (Actually, no, we shouldn't be grateful. These assaults were wrong, and we aren't 'lucky' they weren't worse.)

However, the journalist (Andy Ngo) has been working on provoking the antifa group for months. His coverage is slanted, and according to reports he taunts the protesters to provoke a reaction. So he finally got something physical? Oh, SHAME!!!

Portland definitely seems to have a problem stopping all these protests, riots, and fights. Maybe at some point I'll read something that points to why the violence has gotten so entrenched there while other cities have been able to avoid that. Until then, I'm not swallowing the conservative narrative the antifa is the huge danger they pretend it is. People engaging in street fights - yes, but a serious danger to the country, NO.

Image: amgreatness.com

Extras. More on Portland. Are the Portland police cushy with the right-wing groups? Maybe. Ngo's journal doesn't have the highest ethics either. No surprise to someone like me who watches the media.

Update 8/18/19. Portland was again the site for major protest, led by the Proud Boys and aimed at the mayor and his coddling of antifa. The specific complaint was that there were no arrests yet in the Ngo beating. A leader of another alt-right group surrendered for arrest the day before the protest. The charges stem from a group of alt-right folks descending on a bar after hearing a tip that some antifa folks were there. A large fight ensued, during which a woman was beaten and her vertebrae broken.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Post Mueller: what should he have done differently

There are so many opinions of what should have done differently. I can't say I agree. He kept his investigation clean as thousands of cubic feet of sludge were being thrown all around him, with him often being the target. It didn't stick, which is a testament to his integrity.

So here are the complaints, for whatever little there are worth.

National Review - how dare Mueller say what he said, as the author ignores the DOJ policy on presidential indictments
Contrast Mueller and Comey - the rulebook for these investigations isn't working, as both investigations show. I'm not sure I agree.
Fox news example of erroneous claim that Trump is completely vindicated.
Vox - Mueller left a vacuum that others filled
DailyBeast - hearings likely to be ugly
WaPo - much later than the other links, with Mueller being praised. The author suggests focusing on Trump's clear lies, like he was trying to do business deals while campaigning and denying any ties to Russia.

Image: foxnews.com

Extras. More WaPo - how GOP attacks on Mueller won't work. WaPo - why the press can't do now what it did during Watergate.

Update 7/12/19. Ken Starr appears on Hannity and has suggestions for what Republican congos should ask.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

June links

Negotiations with Iran. Trump does a U-turn because he wants something done. Also he might be trying to head off Bolton's push to war.

Hong Kong protests. China is trying to depress freedoms in Hong Kong, again. That's a difficult situation, and those are brave people.

Did tax cuts help the economy? Economists were in a race to check for the indicators before they were swamped by Trump's trade wars. The data is rather muddy.

Shaming Congress. Jon Stewart speaking with such humanity and passion to a bunch of butt-kissing politicians. This is the kind of person we need in Congress, not the ones we have now. (Scroll down for video of his full speech.) An economist tells Trump why too many sanctions are harmful.

Shaming a politically correct college. Oberlin College was hit with a massive judgment for abetting trumped-up demonstrations by students against a local business.

Special considerations when pregnant women are jailed. I have never considered this issue, but it seems that the jail and prison managers haven't either, and they have no excuse.

Forged videos and fake news. The fakers now have even better tools for the lies they may want to spread. Yikes!

The internet remembers everything. And Twitter rewards 'mean,' so you're screwed if you've used it, and you're nobody if you haven't.

Image: giphy.com

I try to figure out what 'probable cause' means

The FISA warrant application for surveillance on Carter Page is the only warrant I've ever read. The format, the way the information is provided--that's all new to me. Except the actual target (Page), the practice is to obscure the identities of other people and groups. So there is Individual 1, Candidate 1, etc.

Here is a copy of the warrant application.

I wondered about the definition of 'probable cause.' The statements in the application sound very definite, but how definite is it? After all, this is prior to the full investigation with surveillance. While researching, I found this quote from the governing case Illinois v. Gates:
"Probable" cause means that the investigator has to show "a fair probability," not a certainty or near-certainty.
So, it seems that the level of certainty is not without a doubt or beyond a reasonable doubt, or guaranteed to be true under penalty of perjury. It is 'fair probability.'

Some blowhard on the web (there are a few) claimed that the FISA warrant was perjured, and the person writing the warrant has to swear to the veracity of all the information. I have my doubts that he knows the law well enough to make such a claim. There is also the matter of actual practice of how warrants are written, what is the usual language, what is understood between the legal parties. So it's armchair speculation to attack or defend this warrant unless you have knowledge and experience with warrants.

I've done a bit of speculation. I've read that Brennan (some CIA honcho) said there were plenty of allied intelligence services warning about Trump. Is this true? I certainly don't know, and I'd like to know more, but I don't expect the intelligence services to just cough up the info. Maybe there were a lot of rumors from sources that are generally pretty responsible. If so, it's too bad they weren't mentioned in the warrant. Of course, maybe they were mentioned, somewhere in the 13 blacked out pages related to Page. Those 13 pages could contain a lot of info that hasn't ever been openly published, but we certainly don't know. Those who assume that dossier was the only info used for the warrant are assuming that there's nothing in those pages. I think it's an incorrect assumption. If it was about the dossier, why would it have been blacked out when other info about the dossier wasn't?

I'll also say that on reflection, it seems like a very bad idea to hire someone to pump Russians (or any enemy or questionable source) for dirt on your opponent. It looks like Steele and Clinton got played to a certain extent, but they also ended up looking very scummy. That's why neither Clinton nor the FBI revealed their connection to Steele. If you have to hide your connections, maybe you shouldn't have them. That applies to Mike Flynn, Jeff Sessions, and Hillary Clinton too. Anything you try to hide, it ain't going to stay hidden. Remember that.

Image: conservativefighters.com

Extras. I was researching probable cause and read most of this ruling. A good learning experience because of the clarity--or maybe I simply skipped over the convoluted parts.

How the Steele dossier looks in retrospect. Some of the Steele dossier was correct and some wasn't when you compare it to the Mueller report.