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.


Friday, June 14, 2019

What the Dem/FBI/DOJ conspiracy looks like

Since I follow mostly MSM outlets about the election and Russian meddling, I didn't realize there was a full-blown alternative narrative. This alternative isn't as crazy as Pizzagate because it has a number of data points (facts) supporting it.

The big picture is that the FBI, DOJ, and other intelligence agencies were run at the highest levels by personnel who wanted Dems to win the 2016 election, and who acted in dishonest, biased, and corrupt ways to help with that goal. When the Dems lost, they acted to stymy the incoming president (Trump) with fake, trumped-up charges.

These charges, if accurate, are extremely serious. We definitely don't want our government agencies deciding who wins an election. That's for the voters to decide.

The theory is that top DOJ, FBI, CIA, etc. officials were biased and acted illegally. So who is being accused:

James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr (his wife), Brennan, Loretta Lynch, Hillary Clinton, Obama, and possibly Trump appointees Rob Rosenstein and Christopher Wray. Also involved were the personnel at FusionGPS, Glenn Simpson (the CEO, I think), and Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer.

The theory goes that the high-level Dems got the FBI, CIA, etc. to send adjuncts to entrap people in the Trump campaign, make it look like there were ties between Russia and Trump campaign personnel, start a witch hunt, dirty Trump, and hobble him.

Supporting this view are these actual data points:
  1. Strzok and Page's text messages (depending how much weight you give them)
  2. The Clinton campaign paid for Steele's research, which produced the Steele dossier.
  3. Steele was also hired for a couple months by the FBI to continue his research.
  4. The Steele dossier was leaked by Steele in September 2016 in an attempt to discredit Trump.
  5. The Clinton campaign and the FBI hid their connections to Steele.
  6. The Steele dossier was used to justify a FISA warrant to track Carter Page, a former Trump advisor.
  7. FusionGPS also worked with the Russian lawyer involved in the Trump Tower meeting.
  8. After Comey was fired, a friend of his leaked documents alleging that Trump made improper demands on him, and these raised concerns and calls for a special counsel. 
  9. Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel on his own authority since his boss, Jeff Sessions, had recused himself.
  10. One of the intelligence agencies paid Stephan Halper to meet with Trump campaign advisors and try to covertly find out information from them.
  11. Several of Mueller's investigation team had ties to the Clintons and/or made donations to Dems.
These are the known, undisputed data points. In the reckoning of some theorists, this points to a conspiracy in the intelligence community to hobble Trump by accusations, leaks, and investigations.

However, this theory ignores many other data points, like the DNC being hacked, purportedly by the Russians. Of course, maybe you can't trust the intelligence agencies to be truthful about who did the hack. But there certainly was a hack, and the stolen info was disseminated by Wikileaks. So the Russia investigation cannot be a total con jobs, since the hack was real.

Also real was the Trump Tower meeting, and the Trumps' attempts to hide this meeting and what the subject was. Many connections between the Trump campaign advisors and Russians are not disputed, like contacts with the Russian embassador. Mike Flynn lost his job for lying about his connections. Jeff Session suffered well-deserved embarrassment and was forced to recuse himself as Attorney General overseeing the Russian investigation because of his amnesia related to his contacts.

This article from The American Conservative explains the two highly disparate ways of interpreting these facts, calling them 'narrative A' and 'narrative B.' Narrative A is that the security services followed up properly on reasonable suspicions, and did their patriotic duty. Narrative B is covered here--that the intelligence services conspired to spy on the Trump campaign and disable Trump as president.

I'm definitely a believer of narrative A, but I can see how the narrative B support that narrative. However, I have these good reasons to doubt that narrative:
1. Page and Strzok were lovers sending casual, low-significance texts to each other. These were simple texts, not part of a conspiracy that has no other paper or electronic trail.
2. Steele got some things right in his dossier, such as Carter Page going to Russia and having meetings with high-level officials.
7. The Russian lawyer from the Trump Tower meeting was paying FusionGPS for work it did for her. She and/or her clients paid FusionGPS; they didn't pay her, so she wasn't an employee of theirs.
8. Comey's notes, far from being unusual, are very typical documents written about any non-trivial meetings.
9. There was a huge uproar after Trump fired Comey, and even many Republicans were calling for a special counsel appointment.
10. It is not unusual for a counter-intelligence investigation to use operatives like Halper in hopes of finding out significant helpful information.
11. Mueller chose for his team people whom he had worked with in the recent past, including in private investigations. He also chose high-ranking FBI officers. This is normal. 
This leaves some fairly major suspicions, like the Clinton campaign and the FBI both hiring Steele, and then hiding this information. Come on, people, you're not going to be able to keep a secret like this. You need to come clean, and do it early.

Nonetheless, I still believe the narrative that the intelligence services needed to check out the activity of the Russians and possible connections to Trump, and they did their duty.

 Image; tennesseestar.com

Extras. Some sources supporting the conspiracy narrativeInvestor's business daily: Ohr connection, IBD: McCabe 25th amendment testimony, IBD: Investigation started before election, Gateway Pundit, major pusher of the theory. GQ calls it a theory out of thin air, but I've shown that there is substantial data to support it, though not enough for me to think it's the best interpretation of the data. Barr doesn't call it treason. GOPers and their mistakes/lies about the Steele dossier and FISA warrant.