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Monday, June 26, 2017

Election fraud (plus a personal note to my readers)

You may have noticed an uptick of stories, posts and comments which seriously consider the possibility that computerized election fraud occurred in 2016. (Example.) Too many of these stories focus on the idea of Russian interference, as though Putin were the only possible culprit. Even though an "inside job" is just as likely -- and just as evil -- the idea of foreign interference gnaws at the American conscience.

A few days ago, Time magazine published a major story which reiterated the now-familiar scenario of Russians hacking the "voter rolls" -- as though hackers would want to romp and scamper in there without actually doing anything to affect the outcome. For weeks, the Voices of Authority have told us "But there's no evidence that they changed the actual votes...!" Nobody buys that line. I doubt that even the Republicans buy it, not deep down, although they'll keep their skepticism private.

Suppose a cop said the following to you: "Intruders came into your house while you were on vacation, but there's no evidence that they stole anything. No need to check your jewelry box. No need to invest in new locks." How would you react?

The Time article on election integrity was more forceful than others of its kind, even though the writers make some rather dubious statements...
During the run up to the vote, Obama Administration cyber-security officials took steps to prepare for widespread voter registration manipulation, fearing Russia might seek to cause chaos at polling places to undermine the credibility of the election.
"Chaos" didn't happen. Trump happened. Logic tells us that the goal was not to create "chaos" but to create a Trump presidency. 
Current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials say Russia could also have tried to use stolen voter data to gain leverage over witting or unwitting accomplices in the Trump camp, by involving them in a broader conspiracy.
This statement indicates that the hackers did, in fact, have accomplices within the Trump camp. The great concern is therefore not leverage but the fact that Trump won when he should have lost. Why is Time so reticent to admit the obvious? This article prompted former governor Howard Dean to say out loud (via Twitter) what everyone else is thinking:
This is much more serious than previous information. This opens the door to the idea that Trump may have won with falsified votes.
Some of the follow-up tweets are worth quoting here:
Reminder: it would have only taken five falsified absentee ballots per district in PA to produce the margin Trump won by...
The rolls would have been altered to keep people from voting. If only 5 people per district couldn't vote wouldn't have triggered panic
Ex-freakin-actly! Move the needle just enough to win, but not enough to be noticeable. What the morons don't count on is...statistics, trends and probability will show even the slightest data manipulation. Why? Because numbers never lie.
Donald Trump won all of the "surprise" swing states by less than one percent. How likely is that?

As Trump's friend Roger Stone once wrote (in one of his more honest moments):
In an America as large and diverse as we are, the politics of unification is a non-starter. It is unrealistic to think that one could voice one or the other of the political philosophies of the two major parties to unify the country around any course of action. The politics of unification is, at heart, about only so much as you need to unify your 51%.
You may have heard the old college axiom: Your degree is the same whether you're a C student or an A student. Similarly: In electoral politics, pushing yourself one-tenth of an inch past the 50 percent mark gains you the same amount of power that a landslide victory would have attained. A presidential candidate need not even get past the 50 percent mark in the popular vote -- he or she need only eke out a win in the electoral college.

Computerized election fraud is not a bludgeon. It is a delicate instrument designed to help Mr. 48% become Mr. 50.1% Anything beyond a subtle shift would be too obvious. (Although if you ask me, Bernie's win in the Michigan primary was pretty freakin' obvious.)

A side-trip into StoneVille. The above quote comes from an unpublished Stone autobiography. The following summary describes Stone's main methods of election-rigging (paragraph breaks added to increase readability):
The first is through association, by having a candidate receive an endorsement from a person or group who potential supporters of the candidate are predisposed to view as an opponent, or through association with something unquestionably malevolent made via protesters, pamphlets, or other means funded by Stone’s campaign but without any fingerprints.

The second is by having a group, funded by allied interests, oppose a candidate or policy due to some larger moral principle that everyone can agree on – the issue is not candidate A versus B, but opposition to crime, gambling, or child abuse.

The third is the smear, saying your opponent is corrupt, weak, racist, a rapist, a murderer, a pedophile, always helpfully done not through you, the opponent on which this tar might stick, but through a phantom proxy.

This last is used very, very often by Stone. The fourth, and one of the most effective, is through fragmentation of the vote. There is, say, overwhelming support for candidate A, who will raise the minimum wage, versus candidate B, who won’t. You split this overwhelming vote by funding another candidate, who wants to raise the minimum wage even higher, and who chastises candidate A for compromising their principles and being beholden to business interests for not asking for a higher wage. Through a vote split, candidate B, the one who says he believes the condition of workers must be improved, but not through easy sounding solutions like a higher minimum wage, scores a victory. At the same time, you make great efforts to keep the votes for your own candidate or issue from being fragmented.

The fifth is vote suppression, of black and latino voters, who tend to poll democrat. The first four have been employed in elections that Stone has been involved in, with Stone often taking credit. The fifth has been employed alongside Stone’s efforts, though perhaps without the collusion of Stone.
Keep in mind that these words were published well before Trump announced his candidacy.

We saw all of these tactics in play throughout 2016. I don't think that there is any doubt now that Bernie Sanders functioned, wittingly or otherwise, as Trump's agent. The above passage reads like a prophecy of the Sanders movement, especially the bit about the political usage of the minimum wage.

By the way: This glimpse into Bernie's skeletonized closet gives us a pretty good idea of how the Trumpers might have been able to recruit him.

The writer of the above-quoted passage feared to tackle the issue of election hacking. Until recently, one could not discuss this possibility without inviting those ever-so-clever remarks about tin foil chapeaus. That's why the writer restricted himself to the cognate topic of minority voter suppression, which is disputed only by the most shameless propagandists.

But minority voter suppression doesn't explain Trump's greater-than-predicted strength in the rural counties of those three swing states where he won by less than one percent. That's what nudged him over the mark in the electoral college.

Ruthless employment of the first four of Stone's tactics can push even a terrible candidate close to the half-way mark. To creep one-tenth of an inch beyond the 50% line, election hacking may be necessary.

Responding to nay-sayers. Unfortunately, too many people still refuse to acknowledge this possibility -- and Barack Obama didn't help the situation when he declared our election system to be more immaculate than the Virgin Mary.

One canard that we keep hearing -- even in pro-democratic forums -- is that the "recount" in WI actually increased Trump's totals. We have excellent reasons to question the veracity of this alleged recount.

1. The Republican-controlled state needlessly kept raising the cost of the recount -- a strong indicator of bias.

2. Trump's lawyers adamantly blocked any attempt to examine the computer software for signs of malware. As I've said many times in the past, this blockage constitutes a de facto admission of guilt.

3. Trump's official vote share in Wisconsin was 3.6 percent higher than the exit polls indicated. Those who defend the immaculate-ness of our elections tend to scoff at the reliability of exit polls. Here are three reasons why I scoff at the scoffers: A) The United States considers exit poll discrepancies to be indicative of election manipulation everywhere else in the world -- everywhere but here. B) Until the advent of computerized voting, the talking heads on teevee routinely assured us of the accuracy of exit polls. C) Exit poll discrepancies should skew blue as often as they skew red, but in actual practice, they almost always demonstrate a "red shift." This shift defies conventional explanation.

4. There were towns in Wisconsin where the election-day turnout exceeded 100 percent -- more votes than voters. In a number of other places, the turnout hit very unlikely numbers -- 90 percent or more.  Also see here.

5. Most important of all: The Wisconsin recount was not done by hand. (See also here.) Since the recount was (for the most part) done by machines, and since those machines were not checked for malware, and since we know that the Russians hacked election systems in 39 states including Wisconsin, the recount results are meaningless.

What do we do? First: Never concede the legitimacy of Donald Trump's election. For that matter: If we are to be perfectly fair, then we must also not concede the legitimacy of Barack Obama's election, although the 2012 and 2008 results are far more difficult to call into question. A flawed system is a flawed system, even when you like the candidate who won.

Second: Tell everyone you know to read this piece by Glenn Harlan Reynolds.
So what should we do? Well, we could try to boost our cybersecurity, but given that the NSA, the FBI and the CIA are leaking important secrets on a daily basis, maybe we’re not up to that job. So, once again, let me suggest that we return to something that, by its very nature, can’t be hacked by a guy in St. Petersburg: Paper ballots.

In some ways, paper and ink is a super technology. When you cast a vote on a voting machine, all that’s recorded is who you voted for. But a paper ballot captures lots of other information: Ink color, handwriting, etc. If you have access to a voting machine that’s connected to the Internet, you can change all the votes at once. To change a bunch of paper ballots takes physical access, and unless you’re very careful the changed ballots will show evidence of tampering. Paper ballots aren’t fraud-proof, of course, as a century of Chicago politics demonstrates, but they’re beyond the reach of some guy sitting at a computer in a basement halfway around the world. And there are well-known steps to make Chicago-style fraud harder.
Perhaps it’s time to mandate paper ballots, and to also legally require other steps to ensure election integrity. Vote-counting systems should be transparent, and regularly audited. Voter ID should be strictly enforced, as it is in all advanced democracies to ensure that only eligible voters vote. And voter registrations should be audited frequently to ensure the removal of voters who have died or moved away. Maybe we should even dye voters’ fingers to prevent revoting, as is done in many other countries. There’s no way to hack that.
Bravo. Reynolds has hit upon the right way to proceed: Tell the Republicans that we will address their election-integrity concerns if they concede our election-integrity concerns.

A Voter ID card may, over time, actually increase the participation of minorities, the elderly and the homeless. I visualize a system in which each voter receives a plastic card like a driver's license or library card, perhaps with a fingerprint or some higher-tech means of identification.

In my view, such a card should allow the voter access to any precinct in the nation (though only for the purpose of registering a presidential vote), thereby eliminating any of the "dual registration" concerns that often arise when a voter moves. The voter will swipe the card just before entering the booth, insuring that he votes only once in any given election.

(I'm not sure what to do about absentee voting. Any suggestions?)

A voter ID card system will stifle Republican conspiracy theories about multiple-voting schemes. Moreover, this system will actually make voting easier. Even someone who lives in a car or a cave or an impromptu mountain shack will carry a wallet, and that wallet will carry the card. Under the present system, a homeless person often cannot register to vote, at least not easily. Under my proposed system, registration -- if deemed necessary at all -- can take place with the swipe of a card.

In return, Democrats must insist -- and I mean INSIST -- on paper ballots and the hand-counting of those ballots. Insuring the integrity of the tabulation is of paramount importance. Computers must play no further role in either the casting or the counting of votes.

A final note to readers who donated to our "AC" fund: Have you ever been stuck trying to guess an old password? I still can't get into my old Yahoo email account! And I need to do so in order to thank you individually.

For now, let me thank you again collectively. Hell, I don't know what we would have done without you. There were days when I yearned to dive into the Chesapeake: Even if that stunt killed me, I would have died cold.
I think you meant to write "Donald Trump won all of the "surprise" swing states by less than one percent.
Donald Trump lost all of the "surprise" swing states by less than one percent. How likely is that?

I think you meant to say 'won' instead of 'lost' there.

Mr. Cannon,

Neither the Republican Party or the Democratic Party are going to take your suggestions or do anything you want them to do. They will not do anything I would ask of them either. They have become so corrupted and enriched erstwhile, they are completely out of touch with the common person, the people on the street, the people struggling day by day, the precariat. In the plutocratic corporatocracy that we find ourselves, with neoliberal capitalism expanding beyond resource capacity and its own definite boundaries, these parties have become completely unresponsive. I'm telling you now. Your Democratic Party is dead. You're old enough and mature enough to come to that conclusion yourself. I wish you the best. But Americans aren't going to be saved by the Democratic Party, which has no values and has no answers.

President Trump is not the problem, he is a symptom of the problem. Getting rid of Trump will resolve not a thing. The whole system is what produced Trump and people like him to begin with. It's a system that puts professional bullies, like LeafyIsHere, like Milo Yiannopoulos (Hanrahan) and Donald Trump on pedestals. Our society is dying from within, literally paralyzed by corruption and capital.
XI and stickler: SORRY! And thanks. I've corrected.

(For the second day in a row, I've made a mistake of that sort. This is beginning to worry me.)

Joshua: I recall people saying "Your Democratic Party is dead" (or words to the effect) since the 1960s. Defeatism is always tempting, but it never solves anything.

"No values"? I remind you that the 2016 was marked by a debate over HOW MUCH to raise the minimum wage, not just whether or not to raise it. And that is but one example among many others.
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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Caesar and Trump

This article reminds me: I need to get something off my chest about the production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar which everyone is talking about -- the one in which Caesar is made up to look like Trump.

The whole idea is idiotic.

I don't say those words because this staging shows disrespect to the current occupant of the Oval Office. We all know that right-wingers embraced a History Channel miniseries about Jesus in which the devil just happened to look like Obama. That exercise in cheap propaganda was broadcast throughout the world. If the right-wing nutcases now take offense at a production confined to a single stage in New York, I say: Fuck 'em. Treat the evil fascist bastards as they have treated us. If they demand civilized comportment at all times, they should clean up their own acts first.

(Here's your first lesson in reciprocity: You want me to apologize for that "evil fascist bastards" remark? I'll be happy to do so -- the moment I am assured that no right-wing site will ever refer to "Libtards" or "DEMONcRATS." Don't expect to live in a world where you get to punch me but I never get to punch back.)

One reason I decry the Trump-as-Caesar staging has to do with my general distaste for productions in which subtext upstages the text and modern reinterpretation overwhelms the author's intent. Art lasts; contemporary concerns are fleeting. Don't give me a Caesar unless it's a toga party. I also like my Wagner with heldentenors in animal skins and Wotan in a horned helmet.

(You may want to check out my commentary on this excerpt from Parsifal. The replies were gratifying.)

Some of you may now be yearning to give me your rationalizations for absurd "modern" re-imaginings of the classics. Don't bother. I've heard it all before. Mindless repetition of the usual predictable post-modernist drivel isn't going to change my stance.

(Yes, I know that Orson Welles once staged a Caesar which he intended as a commentary on Mussolini. That, too, was a stupid idea.)

My main objection to staging a Trumpified Julius Caesar comes down to this: Trump and Caesar have almost nothing to do with each other. One could argue that we're dealing with two populists who demonstrate the ease with which democracy can devolve into autocracy, but that's the only point of similarity.

These two men could not be more different. 

After an early political conflict cost him his inheritance, Caesar worked his way up from a position of reduced means. Caesar was intelligent. Caesar was brave. Caesar spoke in complete sentences -- in fact, he was very eloquent. Caesar was a superb leader, respected even by his enemies. Caesar wrote his own books. Caesar did not avoid military service. When Caesar ran for Pontifex Maximus, he comfortably won the popular vote. When Caesar ran for Consul, he comfortably won the popular vote. Nobody ever accused Caesar of being the puppet of a foreign power. Caesar favored serious wealth redistribution from the rich to the poor, and nearly lost his life in pursuit of that goal. In the play, Caesar bequeaths much of his personal fortune to the Roman people -- something which Trump will never do.

Likening an oaf like Trump to Julius Caesar insults anyone who knows anything about history.

In the play, Caesar dies at the beginning of Act 3, roughly the half-way point of the work. Nothing that happens afterward has any parallel to our current situation.

Many would argue that Brutus is the true protagonist of the play. Who is our modern Brutus? Shakespeare portrays him as a tortured, noble soul who loves Caesar but loves the Republic even more. Is there anyone similar to Shakespeare's Brutus on our current political stage?

Who is our Anthony? Who is our Cassius? What modern confrontation could possibly function as a parallel to the battle of Philippi? 

Nothing about this theatrical enterprise makes sense. The metaphor completely falls apart -- hell, it isn't even a metaphor.
Spelt Caesar rong in headline . . .
Typo. I kept telling myself not to do that, and I did it anyways. God, I hate myself.

Thanks. I've made the correction.
I still think "Clueless" was a delightful re-imagining of "Emma".

E.Pax, me, too!

Joseph, good is an absurd and appalling non-parallel. And thanks for an idea....
True that Caesar wasn't accused of being the puppet of a foreign power, but he was of course accused of being a catamite to a foreign prince.
Caesar generally gets a bad rap from people who don't know much about Roman history. He was, first and foremost, a reformer (like his uncle Marius) - and entrenched interests always hate reformers. A minor nit, however:

Nobody ever accused Caesar of being the puppet of a foreign power.

In his early years, Caesar was frequently dogged by unsubstantiated accusations that he was overly attached to King Nicomedes IV of Bythinia and that he and Nicomedes were lovers while the young Caesar was on a diplomatic mission to the Bythinian court. In later life, his dalliance with Cleopatra led his opponents to assert that he had fallen under the spell of the "Serpent of the Nile" and had succumbed to a very un-Roman taste for "oriental luxury" as a result.
I'm not a Shakespeare scholar by any means but I've viewed many plays and think that the plays are timeless so I can usually always apply my own interpretation of today's events through Shakespeare's lens if applicable. Macbeth comes to mind.
Mr. Cannon,

The series you refer to, in which the Devil looks similar to President Barack Obama, was not aired or sponsored by HBO. It is a series called 'The Bible', which aired on The History Channel. HBO is an agitprop/propaganda outfit of the Democratic Party, it is totally servile and sycophantic about President Obama. All of the talking heads on HBO, whether that's John Oliver or Bill Maher, have a cultish attitude toward President Obama. No way in hell would they criticize President 44, let alone portray him as 'the anti-Christ'. Never mind the fact that there is no singular 'AntiChrist' in the Bible, but many AntiChrists, plural. The History Channel is a propaganda outfit for the American Far-Right. And I do mean far, far, far-right. Which is to say, 'so far from being right about anything'.

Also, I just want to say. President Trump is an idiot.
Mr. Cannon & Cannonfire readers,

Please check out this article Die Welt, one of Germany's largest newspapers.

Trump's Red Line
"President Donald Trump ignored important intelligence reports when he decided to attack Syria after he saw pictures of dying children. Seymour M. Hersh investigated the case of the alleged Sarin gas attack."

Something in this article which really stood out to me:
"Everyone close to him [President Donald Trump] knows his proclivity for acting precipitously when he does not know the facts," the [intelligence] adviser said. "He doesn’t read anything and has no real historical knowledge. He wants verbal briefings and photographs. He’s a risk-taker. He can accept the consequences of a bad decision in the business world; he will just lose money. But in our world, lives will be lost and there will be long-term damage to our national security if he guesses wrong. He was told we did not have evidence of Syrian involvement and yet Trump says: 'Do it.”’

Joshua, I am ashamed. I knew full well that the History Channel showed that miniseries -- in fact, I caught a snatch of that thing when it was first broadcast. That particular miniseries marked the moment when the History Channel ceased to be the "default" teevee channel in this household. (I didn't make that decision -- everyone here just made the decision silently all at once.)

Too bad. The History Channel used to be quite good. I liked it better when it showed so many WWII documentaries that some nicknamed it the Hitler Channel.

Apologies; I've made the change in my post. TWO thoughtless mistakes in one story! God, I really do hate myself.

I just called up the piece in Die Welt but have not yet read it.
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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Blame Obama

Mort Sahl once said: "Jimmy Carter has been a great ex-president. He should have gone straight to the ex-presidency." No-one can say that about Barack Obama. Lately, both the right and left have been throwing crap at him -- and some of that crap is well-deserved.

The crap coming from the right is very crappy indeed. The Trumpists are crying foul about "unmasking." That's their way of saying: "When the previous administration caught us doing something wrong, they should have kept our identities masked." Seriously, that's what the argument comes to: "How DARE the cops keep us under surveillance while we case the bank?"

The crap-attack coming from the left is far more serious. It has long been clear that, well before the election, Barack Obama possessed enough evidence to expose Trump's perfidy, yet the former president refused to do so.


The focal point for the current controversy is this WP story, which appeared yesterday. The article discusses a highly-classified report on Putin's personal involvement in the Great Election Hack -- a report which reached Obama in August. Obama took measures which now seem far, far too cautious.
But other administration officials look back on the Russia period with remorse.

“It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend,” said a former senior Obama administration official involved in White House deliberations on Russia. “I feel like we sort of choked.”
Damn right they did. Remember, in June -- well before that August report -- Paul Ryan and other Republicans were already trading "jokes"-that-weren't-jokes about Putin's stranglehold on the Republican party in general and on Trump in particular. Trump's interactions with Russian mobsters like Sater were either known or easily knowable. Even then, some people were asking questions about the Putin-linked banks that were willing to deal with Trump after most other financiers had decided to steer clear of him.

Here's Charles Pierce's reaction to the WP piece:
This, right here. This is where they choked. The American people had damned close to an absolute right to the information their government already had. The most fundamental act of citizenship is the right to cast an informed vote. The idea that the Obama administration withheld the fact that the Russians were ratfcking the election in order to help elect a vulgar talking yam is a terrible condemnation of the whole No Drama Obama philosophy. Would Donald Trump have raised hell if the White House released what it knew? Of course, he would have. But, as it was, the American people went to vote with only about half of the information they needed to assess his candidacy. This was a terrible decision.
From The Hill, this morning:
Then-President Obama was too cautious in the months leading up to the election, frustrated Democratic lawmakers and strategists say.

“It was inadequate. I think they could have done a better job informing the American people of the extent of the attack,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who co-chairs the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.

And even after the election was over, they say, the penalties Obama levied were too mild to appropriately punish what by all accounts was an unprecedented attack on a U.S. election.

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), another House Intelligence member, called the penalties “barely a slap on the wrist.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who supports tougher sanctions Russia, said in a statement Friday that the administration “abjectly failed to deter Russian aggression” and “failed to impose any meaningful costs on Russia.”

Some Republicans argue the Obama administration only started to take the Russia threat seriously after President Trump had won the election.
Of course he did. The question is why.
Former Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson on Wednesday told lawmakers that the White House held back on responding to Russia because it didn’t want to play into fears, propagated by then-candidate Trump, that the election would be “rigged.”

“One of the candidates, as you'll recall, was predicting that the election was going to be rigged in some way,” Johnson said. “And so we were concerned that, by making the statement, we might in and of itself be challenging the integrity of the election process itself.”
What a surreal situation! Trump was allowed to make baseless accusations, and those baseless accusations became an excuse for Obama to refrain from making accurate statements. As always, an infuriating double standard allows the R people to do that which the D people may not.

My take on this differs (as you might expect) from the standard responses you'll encounter on most progressive sites.

First: I believe that the voting tabulation machines were hacked directly. The people who keep offering us assurances that such things are impossible never discuss the details; we are simply asked to take these pronouncements on faith. The FBI's "experts" have displayed little expertise, as revealed in this edition of Brad Friedman's podcast. Much of that episode focuses on the predictable GOP "win" in Georgia, but you will also hear some very important observations about the 2016 general election, and about American elections in general.

Months ago, I expressed my opinion that Trump kept hammering the "rigged election" theme because the machines really were rigged, though not by Hillary. A forensic examination of the machines would have exposed the malware. Thanks to the demonization of Hillary (from both the right and the left), the public would have instantly presumed that her team planted the malware.

During the recounts, Trump's lawyers did everything in their power to prevent any forensic examination of voting equipment from taking place, a course of action which stands outside of all innocent explanation. Why wouldn't Trump want such an examination? That's like telling your spouse: "No, I did not place a keylogger on your computer. Nevertheless, I forbid you from running a scan for trojans."

Second: I view Obama's actions (or inactions) through the prism of 2008. In that year, as in 2016, Hillary Clinton was subjected to the worst smears in the history of American politics. But in 2008, the sinister figure behind the smear campaign was Barack Obama himself. The only difference between Obama and Trump is that Trump was willing to get his hands dirty personally, whereas Obama let bots and surrogates do all of the truly filthy work. In that sense, Trump comes across as the more honest -- and therefore more honorable -- of the two political fighters.

Nearly all of the tactics ascribed to Putin and Cambridge Analytica in 2016 were pioneered by David Axelrod and Team Obama in 2008. True, social media was not quite as important then as it later became. Nevertheless, bots were employed, smears were launched, "fake news" hit hard, websites were overwhelmed, opinion was artificially manipulated, caucus primaries were rigged, delegates were apportioned unfairly -- and anyone who dared to counter the many anti-Hillary lies would be shouted down by a million seemingly-real voices.

Remember when shit like this appeared every minute of every hour of every day on Democratic Underground, TPM, HuffPo and Daily Kos?

I sure as hell remember. I'll never forget. And I'll never stop waving the bloody shirt. Some wounds cannot be forgotten or forgiven.

The public still does not understand that Axelrod ran a perception management firm called ASK which performed the same manipulative tricks in 2008 that Cambridge Analytica performed in 2016. As I noted in my first piece on ASK, they first made their mark by mounting a campaign to deregulate electricity.

Remember the disaster that hit California? Remember Enron? Remember how the internet was filled with voices pooh-poohing the "conspiracy theory" that Enron deliberately engineered California's woes? Remember how anyone who dared to say "There's something funny going on here" was inundated with ever-so-clever remarks about tin foil hats? Remember how those ever-so-clever remarks disappeared the day the Enron tapes came out and we all learned that some conspiracies are real?

From my second piece on Axelrod's operation:
That year saw not just a fevered political campaign but the creation of a genuine cult of personality. Big blogs like Daily Kos and TPM were inundated with comments from individuals never seen before or since, and they all spread horrific lies and rumors about Hillary and Bill Clinton while lauding Obama in reverential, almost messianic terms.

Were these personas? Were the Obots actually...bots?

Don't be silly. The question isn't even a question.

My own blog, humble as it was, got battered by a "vitriol monsoon." The hate-spew came every few minutes, day and night. Software was obviously involved. A large amount of that hate commentary -- including several death threats -- came from the same ISP in Chicago, Illinois. The home of the Obama campaign.
Obama screwed over Clinton in 2008 and he did it again in 2016. How could he pin the blame on either Russia or Cambridge Analytica? What did they do that he didn't?
Doesn't quite make sense. Why would he destroy his own legacy. HRC would have continued his policies. I put it down to excessive caution.
this breaks my heart all over again. I will never forget 2008, and I wrote in Hills name just so I could cast my vote for the one I thought was the better candidate. I got used to Obama and voted for him in 2012 I don't want to believe he did this thing just to screw her again, I just can't. did he play it safe for his own legacy? what could be the gain for him? Did he realize he was selling the whole country down the river?
I just don't want to believe that, I can't
Isn't every important thing rigged? Someone explain why or how, since Obama's mother was "white", he's deemed "black". All major "news" outlets condescend and fashion their coverage for the lesser of two stupids.
He didn't only stay passive, he actually defended the election process as is after trump said it was rigged. Notice trump never said who was doing the rigging. Remember days from the election when he said from Michigan(?) That he already won and wondered why dem are bothering with it, remember that smug smile?
I have to admit they outsmart the dem. They knew their flaws and weaknesses, so when playing that game of crying the rigged election, it will have them running to defend it, even if they have evidence it's true. Well done traitors(I am not saying which).
"He didn't only stay passive, he actually defended the election process as is after trump said it was rigged."

I think this is one reason why so many people refuse to consider the obvious (to me) possibility that the vote was hacked. Obama said it was not. Obama, and much of the MSM, said that vote rigging was impossible. Nobody now wants to say "Obama was wrong."

That said, I think we are in general agreement. That "smug smile" is something I recall well. If he really thought Hillary was rigging the election, we would not have seen that smile. He would have worn a very different expression.
Excessive caution operating on two levels seems more plausible.

First, Obama always, always erred on not wanting to stir up the right wingers, and if that's caution, then I'm pretty sure that was his motive.

Also, Obama was probably aware of some of the many investigations looking into Trump, or was advised by those who were, not to tip the hand(s) of the feds. This would have played into his innate caution.

Funny how this would be LBJ redux. LBJ knew about Nixon's illegal contacts with the N. Vietnamese but feared revealing what are now known as wire "tapps."

I must add that it's clear that substantial, and active, portions of those Three Letter Agencies worked hard to bring about a GOP victory, no matter who it was.

Good to have you back.
I think him making the hacking public would have made the situation worst in the long run.

The "Left", the Right, and the Mainslime Media would have screamed and howled that he was making it up to help Hillary. Remember when Harry Reid told the New York Times back in October what was going on and NYT proceeded with its Full Metal Email coverage and failed to investigate or report on the had been revealed?

It would have been worst had Hillary won the electoral vote, which I think Obama assumed what was going to happen. If she had won this cloud of "rigged elections" would have hung over her along with the emails, Benghazi, etc etc etc. She would have not been able to accomplish anything and the seriousness of the vote tampering would never be taken seriously again and the same thing would have happened the next election. And the consequences of that would be? No one would dare touch investigation of hacking again because it would be political poison, both for officials and the media.

This is the type of situation, which, by the way has not happened before (referring to the involvement of a foreign power. US has had many compromised elections before). It's a damned if you do damned if you don't situation. And while I'm a self confessed Obama Bot, I'm not just saying this because it was Obama. Given how horrible the media, Rethuglicans and "The Left" are, we cannot have a conversation in which the participants are not operating in good faith and trust me, media, Rethugs and "Left" are not.

I still believe this was a coup, part of a psyops that is ongoing. The country seems to be going crazy, but there is a huge effort to orchestrate all of the hate and blame scripts, all of which seem to be targeted at Obama, Democrats and women (particularly women of color). I think the Russians are the front guys, but the power behind it is from the good old USofA who is outsourcing the actor and the deeds to distract us from the fact we did have a coup and its aim is to destroy the poor and middle class and people of color. In my opinion any discussion that does not occur in the context of understanding this coup is counter productive. This doesn't mean we don't have power to change this. We do. But I believe we have to really comprehend the situation we're in, which is dire. We can't afford the luxury of denial and cynicism

Also, too, I think it began on 11-22-63. And I don't mind a bit if I'm accused of being tin foil head.
Tom: "Funny how this would be LBJ redux. LBJ knew about Nixon's illegal contacts with the N. Vietnamese but feared revealing what are now known as wire "tapps.""

That is an excellent historic parallel. But I have to say that we all would have been better off if LBJ had spoken up. Think of the dead in Vietnam (on both sides) would have survived. Humphrey could not have pursued the war for very much longer -- his party's base had turned (or was turning) against it decisively.

"I must add that it's clear that substantial, and active, portions of those Three Letter Agencies worked hard to bring about a GOP victory, no matter who it was."

We're very much on the same wavelength there. A few people are finally coming around to this idea. For a long time, I thought I was the only one who thought this way.

Big Guy: "I still believe this was a coup, part of a psyops that is ongoing. The country seems to be going crazy, but there is a huge effort to orchestrate all of the hate and blame scripts, all of which seem to be targeted at Obama, Democrats and women (particularly women of color). I think the Russians are the front guys, but the power behind it is from the good old USofA who is outsourcing the actor and the deeds to distract us from the fact we did have a coup and its aim is to destroy the poor and middle class and people of color."

I think there is a LOT of truth in this. But the Russians are not merely front guys. Rather, I think both Putin and the Alt Right are beholden to the same ideology.


"Rather, I think both Putin and the Alt Right are beholden to the same ideology."

I agree. This is ideological for the Russians, also a way to establishing dominance and realizing economic benefit.

But I still think that's a piece, not the totality of the push we're seeing.

BTW, your piece on Watergate and the taps was excellent. I need to reread Hougan. I read Secret Agenda years ago and thought it was groundbreaking. Didn't he also write Spooks?
Tom's 4:38 comment makes the best sense all around. As for the "LBJ redux" and Joseph's opinion about it: The knowledge of Nixon's secret dealings to disrupt the peace process wasn't out there in any way, shape, or form; besides, the war wasn't LBJ's war, it was run and perpetuated by the Three Letter Agency, and no doubt LBJ was instructed in the art of avoiding his being terminated with extreme prejudice.
You know about this don't you (I've only been able to skim your article so don't know if discussed.)

The key is in this court document:

I sat staring at it for the longest time until all became clear.

Trump's conversations were legally taped using SS7 security glitch in Comey's phone. This turned Comey's phone into an open mike not just for cell phone conversations but for ALL conversations. Comey was being just a wee bit disingenuous during testimony but he only gave permission for conversations to be taped. He couldn't be sure they were. (I suspect they were not only taped but the tapes are everywhere. I suspect they have even been played for Trump. Why not? Let the bastard sweat.)

This court document is indirect evidence of same--and more. It shows that after Comey was fired and they no longer had the "cooperating" party, and likely Comey no longer had a phone with the SS7 bug, Sessions went to court and tried to put a tap back on Comey's cell phone using normal interdiction procedures--this time without Comey's assent. The judge said, "Fuggetaboutit."

Rumor has it that Kislyak's phone had same security flaws. Oh and if son-in-law did manage to get that communication system set up in the Russian embassy? Well, an embassy is automatically--foreign soil.
There were many violations of separation of Church and State, Sports and State, Tabloid Magazines Covers almost seemingly written by Donald Trump (makes one wonder if Trump won't release his income tax filings because we will find out he is either is a co-owner or gets paid by the Tabloid magazines as a contributor / consultant), all favored Trump.
However, Hillary Clinton's health, or lack of cardio fitness, apparently caused her to not openly ridicule or challenge Trump. She never seemed to take the battle to Trump mano a mano. I think that was because she might have still been recovering from some type of health issue.

Mr. Cannon, my comments about taps--should have been posted with your previous article--I apologize.
I don't get this obsession of yours with her health. Do you know something the rest of us don't. How her health prevented her from confronting dump considering she was running to be the president. Which of the two more taxing. She looks fine to me. That's not to say I am still puzzled by her playing nice as if she never met American people.

I agree with Big Guy on how horrifying it would've been had Hillary won the electoral and this had all come out. She'd have faced the usual bs and then all this from the wrong angle, and the abusive barrage would've accomplished the same thing as keeping her out of office.

As bad as everything is, this is far better for citizen activism, if we can get and keep our act together. I recommend Indivisible for gathering and acting in local groups.

I agree with Tom, also, on "'s clear that substantial, and active, portions of those Three Letter Agencies worked hard to bring about a GOP victory, no matter who it was" and would love to hear more on this, Joseph. btw, thanks, and I don't know how you do all you do!

I was infuriated, too, about the 2008 primaries. I was never able to think of Obama as a legitimate President. A part of my mind still thinks the USA has not had a legitimately nominated and elected President since Bill C. left office.

But, knowing what we know now...I wonder if I got duped? How many of the Obots were actually, even then, Russkibots? Maybe Mommie Dearest Russia was interfering in our elections even then?
"However, Hillary Clinton's health, or lack of cardio fitness, apparently caused her to not openly ridicule or challenge Trump. She never seemed to take the battle to Trump mano a mano. I think that was because she might have still been recovering from some type of health issue."

What a load of sexist b.s. There was NOTHING wrong with HRC's health that prevented her from being president. You might as well use the sexist filth that her "hormones" made her ineligible. Disgusting. Trump is in far worse physical shape than HRC, but he is a MAN, so he can look like hell and feel like hell.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

White House "tapes": Here's the news you won't hear anywhere else

This post will take you on a journey through the kind of history not taught in school. But before we get to the weird and wild stuff, we must note yesterday's big news: Donald Trump now denies that he recorded former FBI Director James Comey:
With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea......whether there are "tapes" or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.
Rachel Maddow devoted a large part of her show to Trump's admission, in court, that he has lied about recording conversations with one of his biographers. (That is, Trump at first bragged about making recordings and then later claimed that those those boasts were false.) She obviously doubts the reality of those alleged recordings. Call me a natural-born contrarian, but I think she's wrong. I also disagree with Lawrence O'Donnell, who offers his own views in the video embedded above.

Why do I tend to believe in the existence of the Comey "tapes"? First: We know that Trump has made such recordings in the past. Second: We have a clear photograph of a digital voice recorder on Trump's desk in the Oval Office. Let's have no jokes about Trump's maladroit way with technology: I happen to own an Olympus digital voice recorder myself, and I assure you that a small child can operate it. If the internal mic is on the correct setting, the device can capture a conversation on the other side of the room.

So why has Trump backtracked from his impulsively-made "tape" claims, both in that long-ago court case and in the recent Comey situation? Simple: He realized belatedly that making the recordings public would do him much more harm than good. If he admitted that he taped Comey, Mueller would demand to hear that recording and other recordings as well. That situation could get really sticky really fast.

What was the purpose of Trump's theatrical delay before denying the existence of "tapes"? I don't know. His strange behavior seems indicative of -- well, of something, though I'm not sure what that "something" might be.

The wording of his tweeted statement becomes more ominous on second read: "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information..." Obviously, he's hewing to an agreed-upon propaganda line designed to paint Obama and Susan Rice as sinister agents of the Deep State, but his text also conveys the hint of a threat. Perhaps he intended to convey this message: "Recordings may indeed exist. But if and when they come out, I won't let you saddle me with the legal consequences."

The Nixon factor. In recent weeks, we've seen innumerable rehashes of the Watergate tapes. Nobody on teevee ever gets the story right, because only people with a superficial view of history are ever allowed on camera.

Here's an all-important detail you probably don't know: There were multiple parties recording Nixon's White House.

Why didn't Nixon burn the tapes in his possession? Because he knew that he didn't have the only copies. Strong evidence suggests that another set of recordings were held by CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton.

Before we get much further with our story, it is important to understand that Angleton had become a Nixon opponent from the right. Nixon pursued a policy of detente, which Angleton detested. Moreover, the legendarily paranoid CIA molehunter considered Kissinger a Soviet agent -- an absurd idea which Angleton couldn't give up.

(Long-time readers may accuse me of having an Angleton obsession. True enough. But hear me out: In this case, much of the evidence is compelling.)

In 1975, New York Times foreign affairs correspondent Tad Szulc -- one of the most-respected journalists in American history -- published a lengthy article in Penthouse on electronic eavesdropping in Washington. (Back then, both Penthouse and Playboy paid big bucks for "quality" articles by big-name writers.) His work was summarized by the Washington Post and republished in the report of a congressional committee (here). After that, the whole thing went down the memory hole. If you bring up now what Szulc said then, you'll be dismissed as one of those awful, awful conspiracy theorists -- even though nobody felt that way back in 1975.

Here is the relevant section of Szulc's piece:
One extraordinary example is the tiny laser-beam transmitter embedded in the wall of the Oval Office at the White House. This transmitter picked up and relayed to a remote recording center every conversation between Richard M. Nixon and his aides, friends, and visitors during at least several months in 1970, the year the former president launched his secret domestic intelligence program. Presidential telephone conversations, including those conducted over "secure" scrambler lines, were also picked up by the laser transmitter.

The existence in the presidential office of this highly sophisticated device, known by the code name "Easy Chair," remains one of the most sensitive, closely guarded, and intriguing secrets of the Nixon period. This knowledge is restricted to about a dozen key past and present officials of the Intelligence Community. But the precise purpose of the operation, the exact identity of those who ordered the installation of the laser device under a coat of fresh paint on the Oval Office wall, and the ultimate disposition of the instrument remain unclear. Nor do we know if tapes were made of these transmissions — which is perhaps, the most crucial question.

It is also not known if Nixon himself was aware of and consented to the installation. If he did, the laser system complemented his hidden recording devices that produced the famous White House tapes. (In any event, the laser device picked up with infinitely more clarity every word uttered in the Oval Office, eliminating the "unintelligible" gaps that affected the tapes. In addition, the laser system permits, unlike a tape recorder, the identification of every individual voice in a room and the separation of several simultaneous conversations.) It is not known where the laser beam signal was received, but technical experts believe that such a device has a transmission range of under a half mile along a clear line of sight. The laser beam must be aimed out a window — it would be deflected by a wall. In the case of the Oval Office it had to go through the panes of the French doors leading to the Rose Garden.

Highly reliable sources told Penthouse that one or more senior officials of the Secret Service and the Central Intelligence Agency are familiar with the "Easy Chair'- situation in the White House, although they could not say whether they learned of it only when the laser device was discovered and removed early in August 1970, or whether they knew at some earlier date. The sources would not rule out that the late J. Edgar Hoover, then director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was also privy to "Easy Chair.'

In any event, this super-bugging of the presidential office looms as one of the most bizarre episodes in the still unfolding story of domestic spying carried out by six successive administrations, but climaxing most spectacularly during Nixon's tenure.

Penthouse learned of this bugging of the Oval Office as a result of a lengthy investigation. According to highly authoritative sources, the person who installed the laser transmitter, possibly on a second attempt when an original device did not function properly, is a foreign-born individual employed as a painter by the government and apparently controlled by one of the intelligence agencies. His name as well as a number of other relevant details are withheld from publication to avoid causing suffering and embarrassment to persons innocently involved in this operation.
When Michael Beschloss appears on MSNBC to deliver the "lite" version of Watergate, he doesn't tell you about that material.

The idea of a "laser microphone" may seem like something out of Marvel comics, but as this Wikipedia article notes, the basic concept goes back to the 1940s, well before the invention of lasers. You can find various references to Easy Chair on the web, if you know where to look -- for example, here. (That link goes to It's a rah-rah pro-spook site, so don't go there expecting to see any references to bugs in the White House.)

The FBI factor. Szulc's 1975 article hints at an even larger story. Take another look at this passage: "The sources would not rule out that the late J. Edgar Hoover, then director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was also privy to "Easy Chair.'"

Question: Why did Szulc bring up Hoover? That bit of name-dropping comes out of the blue. Another question: Given the strained relations between CIA and the FBI, just how did Hoover learn about Easy Chair?

The Hoover claim must be considered in conjunction with another passage: "...technical experts believe that such a device has a transmission range of under a half mile along a clear line of sight." These words bring up an obvious quandary: Where would the eavesdroppers place the receiver? 

I think that Szulc offered a big clue when he brought up J. Edgar Hoover. No, I'm not talking about the FBI Building, which did not open until 1975. (Besides, it stands outside the half-mile radius.) Curt Gentry's invaluable biography J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets (page 633) suggests a much better location:
The FBI had a number of secret listening posts in Washington and its environs, including a large facility at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia -- it was from here that the wires of the Central Intelligence Agency, at nearby Langley, were supposedly tapped -- but the heart of its electronic surveillance operations was the Old Post Office Building, which was located in the Federal Triangle, close to the FBI headquarters in the Justice Department Building but far enough away that an attorney general wouldn't accidentally walk in.

Since the Post Office had moved into its new building in 1934, the Bureau had gradually taken over most of the old building. Here, behind locked doors, with the tightest possible security, scores of monitors sat in front of small consoles, earphones on their heads, listening to, and recording, thousands of conversations.
The Old Post Office Building was the obvious choice for the "Easy Chair" surveillance operation. The building code in D.C. enforces a strict height restriction, but the tower of the the Old Post Office Building predates that law. Except for the Washington Monument, no other place in the city offers a higher vantage point. The tower offers superb line-of-sight access to all sort of interesting places.

Although a tree now blocks the way, in Nixon's time, the Old Post Office Building tower offered a direct view of the windows of the Oval Office. Moreover, the Old Post Office Building is just within our 1/2 mile radius.

The photo published above and to the right was taken from the tower; the White House is in the upper center, behind the Treasury Building (the grey building with columns in front). The "Marine One" photo below, taken in 1970, proves that the foliage was once much less dense.

The Trump factor. Of course, the Old Post Office Building is now owned by none other than Donald Trump. I've never read anything to suggest that the Hoover-era surveillance equipment was completely removed from that building.

You may recall that Trump has said that he expects to be under surveillance in foreign hotels. Perhaps he knows about such things because he has allowed surveillance to take place within his hotels.

As we've seen in several previous posts, some very shady characters have had offices and living quarters in Trump Tower. These characters were so very shady that the FBI had them under surveillance. Could the Bureau have bugged those locations without help from the owner of the building? Possibly -- but you must admit that the operation would have been a lot easier with Trump's acquiesence.

We've also heard the suggestion that Trump himself may have functioned as an FBI asset:
As all readers of Wayne Barret and David Cay Johnston know, Donald Trump has gotten away with all sorts of legally dubious crap over the years. It makes sense that Donnie would protect his interests by making various deals with the feds.

You may have noticed that Trump Tower has a history of renting to high-level crooks, and that the feds always found it easy to "tapp" those particular suites. (Apparently, there has been a lot of bugging in that building.) One example would be Felix Sater, a former Trump Tower tenant who himself functioned as an FBI informant.
At one time, there were plans to transform the Old Post Office Building into a Women's Museum. Is it outlandish to suggest that the intelligence community, for reasons of its own, has always wanted to see that building function as a Trump hotel?

The Angleton Factor. J. Edgar Hoover's motive for spying on the White House should be obvious. As most people know, he maintained power by obtaining blackmail material -- what we now call "kompromat" -- on everyone in town, including the various residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

So why would I bring James Angleton of the CIA into this story?

He, too, was renown for conducting surveillance on everyone in town. Moreover, he would discuss each night's eavesdropping haul with DCI Allen Dulles. From Michael Holzman's Angleton bio, quoting Tom Braden:
"Angleton would come into Allen's office first thing in the morning and report what his bugs had picked up the night before. He used to delight Allen with stories of what happened at people's dinner parties...Jim used to come unto Allen's office and Allen would say, 'How's the fishing?' And Jim would say, 'Well, I got a few nibbles last night.' It was all done in the guise of fishing talk."
Some have wondered how Angleton acquired the ability to eavesdrop on so many people. The answer is simple: His staff did not do the actual surveillance work. J. Edgar Hoover allowed Angleton to have access to the electronic intelligence that kept streaming into the Old Post Office Building.

Why was the notoriously territorial John Edgar Hoover willing to share this remarkable haul with Jim Angleton, a man he had little reason to like? Because Angleton possessed "kompromat" on the FBI Director, in the form of photographs of homosexual activity involving Hoover and Clyde Tolson.

The photos themselves have never been published. Their existence was first revealed to the public in 1993, by British author Anthony Summers, whose main source was an infamous electronics expert named Gordon Novel. Circa 1990, I played a small role in publicizing Novel's claim about the Hoover/Tolson photo, which he originally made in a private phone conversation with a pilot linked to the intelligence community. The pilot taped the call; I somehow got hold of a transcript and passed it along to -- well, to all sorts of people. (Kinkos was my second home back in those pre-internet days, and my Rolodex had some interesting names and addresses.) Eventually, the document reached a Summers associate, with whom I later spoke. Fortunately, the British journalist was able to find a secondary source for the story; he even got Novel to repeat the claim on camera for a Frontline documentary, which is probably online.

(Somewhere along the way, I was threatened by Novel, which quite disturbed me at the time. I later learned that such threats were simply his way of saying "Hi.")

All of which brings us back to the tapes of the Nixon White House. 

At CIA, Novel dealt pretty much exclusively with Angleton. That fact explains why Charles Colson sounded out Novel concerning a rather bizarre scheme to erase the Watergate tapes using a "degaussing gun." This tentative plan was first described by columnist Jack Anderson in August of 1974. (Many years later, during an impromptu radio interview, Novel later said that the only reason he didn't do it was "They didn't pay me.")

Unfortunately, Anderson's rather garbled piece focuses on an alleged plan to degauss tapes stored in the White House basement. The story makes only the briefest of references to copies of the same White House conversations at CIA headquarters.

Almost no-one who read that article in 1974 understood the implications. Before the Watergate prosecutor knew of the existence of those tapes, before the public learned about the tapes, the White House understood that the CIA had copies of everything.

That single fact -- which (as we will see) Colson confirmed -- changes our entire view of Watergate.

The CIA had their own recordings of Nixon's conversations within the White House. You won't hear those words from Rachel Maddow or from any other MSNBC or CNN newsfolk offering Watergate retrospectives. Was the Colson/Novel "degaussing" plan practical or serious? I don't know and I don't care. Any such discussion diverts us from the history-changing words that have been hiding in plain sight since 1974: The CIA had their own recordings of Nixon's conversations within the White House.

Now you know the real reason why Nixon could not simply "burn the tapes." He knew that his tapes were not the sole tapes.

If Tad Szulc's 1975 story is accurate -- and I believe it is -- then the CIA recorded the Nixon White House using "Easy Chair" technology. Moreover, we have three excellent reasons to believe that these recordings fell into James Angelton's possession.

1. As noted above, there is good reason to believe that Angleton had access to the "take" from the Hoover's surveillance operation in the Old Post Office Building.

2. If you study Szulc's career, you'll see that he often used Angleton as a source. Szulc admitted as much in secret testimony delivered to the Church Committee. (See page 166 of Holzman's book.) I strongly believe that Angleton was Szulc's source for the 1975 article which revealed the existence of the CIA's "Easy Chair" project.

3. Gordon Novel made clear on more than one occasion that -- when it came to the CIA -- he dealt almost exclusively with Angleton. To erase tapes in Angleton's possession, Colson needed someone who could gain access to Angleton's office on the second floor of CIA headquarters. That "someone" would have been Novel.

The CIA factor. Suppose I'm wrong in my view that "Easy Chair" technology targeted Nixon. The conventional view holds that the White House taping system was installed by a tech guy named Alexander Butterfield, who later blabbed about the whole thing to the Watergate investigators.

Guess what? We still have a strong CIA connection.

Jim Hougan's invaluable Secret Agenda devotes part of its fourth chapter to the claims that the CIA had infiltrated the White House. Most people don't know that James McCord -- formerly a CIA man, later a Watergate burglar -- was brought on board by Alfred Wong, the technical director for the Secret Service.
As H. R. Haldeman has written: "Were there CIA 'plants' in the White House? On July 10, 1975, Chairman Lucien Nedzi of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee released an Inspector-General's Report in which the CIA admitted there was a 'practice of detailing CIA employees to the White House and various government agencies.' The IG Report revealed there were CIA agents in 'intimate components of the Office of the President.' Domestic CIA plants are bad enough, but in 'intimate components' of the Office of the President'?" Haldeman then goes on to speculate about the identities of the CIA men in the White House. His main suspect is Alexander Butterfield, the former Air Force officer whose White House responsibilities included overall supervision of the presidential taping system. That system consisted of some two dozen room microphones and telephone taps that Wong's Secret Service detachment had installed in the White House and at Camp David; voice-activated by the Presidential Locator System or manually by Butterfield, the microphones and taps fed into a set of concealed Sony tape recorders. Haldeman's suspicions about Butterfield -- who denies that he was a CIA asset -- were shared by Rose Mary Woods, President Nixon's personal secretary. Together they criticize Butterfield for voluntarily revealing the existence of the taping system; they point with suspicion to Butterfield's early service as a military aide to GOP nemesis Joseph Califano, and make much of the fact that the circumstances of Butterfield's White House appointment are disputed.

Haldeman and Woods are not alone in their suspicions of Butterfield, or in their concern over the Inspector General's report. If Bill McMahon is correct, McCord's seconding of CIA personnel in undercover assignments at the White House amounted to the calculated infiltration of a uniquely sensitive Secret Service unit: the staff responsible for maintaining and servicing the presidential taping system, and for storing its product. Moreover, unless both Haldeman and McMahon are mistaken-about Butterfield's secret allegiance and McCord's loan of personnel to Wong-then the CIA would seem to have had unrivaled access to the President's private conversations and thoughts. Charles Colson, among others, believes that this is precisely what occurred. "The CIA had tapes of every­ thing relating to the White House," Colson told me. "And they destroyed them two days after [Senator Mike] Mansfield asked them to save all of their tapes."
This passage from Hougan does not necessarily conflict with the Szulc piece. Szulc describes a system to eavesdrop on the Oval Office -- but unlike all other presidents, Nixon didn't like to spend time there. If Agency personnel wanted to know that was going on in that administration, they would have to bug more than one room.

If the intelligence community knew Nixon's secrets in 1972, they must surely know Trump's secrets now.

Keep all of this history in mind whenever a Spookworld fanboy -- or fangirl (I'm looking at you, Louise) -- paints a naive, comforting picture of "heroic intelligence officers versus the Trump/Putin conspiracy." The situation was hardly simple in Nixon's day. The situation cannot possibly be so simple now.

Is the "deep state" is out to get Donald Trump? Not in my book. I think that a faction of the intelligence community is protecting him.

Hi Joseph, good thing you can stay cool in these heated days!

Here’s a question: What might Putin’s drop of Trump look like? Because it will surely come. Trump hasn’t delivered (and won’t be able to) on any of Putin’s two crucial interests: a) the sanctions lift, b) the installation of General Misha as de facto Commander in Chief. I bet Vlad is not amused these days.

Consider that the next best thing to the vanished Trump promises that Putin can hope for is an America weakened by a crippled presidency and a lengthy and self-injuring impeachment process. And I guess Putin has enough material on Trump to feed that richly. When your debtor can’t pay, you can at least make him sweat.

Is Roddie’s “cryptic message” a warning that a Russian attack on Trump is imminent? This attack will of course be played not through the usual (discredited) suspects such as RT etc. but through those WaPo and NYT “sources that do not identify the country”.

Somewhere, long ago read that during World War II, when Hitler met with his generals, the U.S.S.R. had a agent who monitored and recorded their discussions. If true, wonder if the listening was shared with the O.S.S.
Thank goodness CIA is prohibited by law from conducting covert operations inside the United States. Lucky for CIA and for DOJ and Congress that "oversight" has two meanings.

Conaway: Trump tweets don’t satisfy Comey tapes request

By Kyle Cheney
| 06/23/2017 11:47 AM EDT

Off topic: Are you watching the meltdown between John Schindler and Malcom Nance?
Epic tweets last night...

If an article, "The Laser Listener," that I read in Radio Electronics Magazine, October 1987, can be believed, this "laser transmitter" needn't involve any foreign-born painters hiding anything in the Oval Office walls.

This device bounces a laser beam off a window and records the reflected beam as it's modulated by the vibrations in the glass. The window itself becomes a giant microphone.

That's not a description of a laser microphone. Laser microphones don't require physical installation. You shoot a laser at a window, it detects vibrations through the glass from conversations inside. The laser isn't used to transmit from a physical bug to a remote location.
To be honest, Stephen and Anon, I had read the same material -- that lasers are used to pick up vibrations in window panes. Szulc is no longer with us, so we can't ask him follow up questions. It may be that his sources (among them, almost certainly, JJA) deliberately gave him skewed information in order to protect a methodology which was quite secret in 1975. On the other hand, Szulc's story about a Hungarian painter "painting" a bug on a White House interior wall is rather detailed and seemingly persuasive.

So...I dunno.

I'll tell you something else, even though I probably shouldn't. I have this weird stray memory-shard from twenty years ago (or therabouts). SOMEONE once told me that the Washington Monument has been used as an eavesdropping device or relay station. I don't recall who said that, and thus I can't say if the person making this claim was reliable. It's very possible that memory is playing tricks on me.

But the monument is definitely within line of sight of both the Oval Office and the Old Post Office Building. (I've never ventured inside the Monument, so I'm not sure if there's room "up there" for a laser-receiver thingie. You couldn't get me to climb up that thing if you held me at gunpoint.)

Avehicle parked on Constitution Ave would also be within line of sight. Nowadays, the Secret Service would become suspicious of such a vehicle in very short order. I'm not sure what the situation would have been in 1972.

The KGB made Angleton look a complete Ass when his best friend MI5`s Kim Philby defected to Moscow, Russia; where he received Full Military Honors. Bob Woodward was also connected to the CIA.
Nice to see your mojo working again now that you have A/C.
Some more information about Mr. Novel, whom Jim Garrison investigated. Here's a link to Playboy Magazine interview with Garrison.
"Paint" can also be used to mean "point a laser at", in military circles.
Philby was MI6, rather than MI5, I believe.

Albeit for some time in a counterintelligence role.
Back in the day I went to the top of the Washington monument....and came down the stairs! Don't remember what the room looked like, but I do think they closed the monument for a long time, so who knows what's in there!
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

My friends...

As you might imagine, we've been away from home-sweet-hotplate for a while. I've also been away from my computer. To tell you the truth, it has been rather pleasant not to feel obligated to keep up with every quiver and quaver of the ongoing battle against the cheatin' Cheeto.

Your incredibly kind help has literally brought tears to our eyes. After the money traveled from PayPal to the bank, we were able to purchase a new AC unit -- the installation of which proved quite a task. Lugging a thing like that up to the attic and somehow threading it into a small and awkward space reminded me of an unpleasant truth: You are no longer young.

If you still feel generous, I urge you find someone to help in the blazing west. It appears that California is having a thoroughly miserable time of it.

As soon as I find the password to my old Yahoo account -- for some reason, it's not stored on this browser -- I'll thank you all individually. For right now, George thanks you, my ladyfriend thanks you, and I feel truly grateful and truly humbled. You've once again taught a captious old curmudgeon that human beings are capable of incredible grace.

If you follow the news too carefully for too long, cynicism becomes your default mode. Cynicism has its uses, but it can also blind you to the fact that people can be pretty damned wonderful.

Thank you so much. I'll resume blogging when I feel I've gotten ahead of the news curve.

One last note: It was very pleasant to spend a couple of days reading books written years ago. We all need a reminder that there once was a pre-Trump age. We can find our way back.
Well when you come back we'll be here. This is coming soon.
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Monday, June 19, 2017

NEW INFO: A strange "Poker Venture" run out of Trump Tower

First: A plea for help. I rarely run fundraisers on this site, but an emergency just hit. After spending my meager savings on frivolities like medicine and a new video card, MY BLOODY AIR CONDITIONER DIED. I live in a very hot attic in a very humid part of the country. When the outside temperature turns hellish, it becomes even hellisher up here -- for me, for my ladyfriend, and for my poor diabetic doggiefriend George.

Yes, I'm brash enough to mention the effects of global (or at least local) warming on my canine companion. He pants and pants but won't leave my side for the cooler climes of downstairs. The loyalty of a dog is touching, astounding, and a bit unnerving. (Would it tug at your heartstrings if I showed you his picture? Mine is the shamelessness born of desperation.)

If you "ding" the PayPal button to your left (you may have to scroll down), your generous contribution will go straight to the air conditioner fund. We don't need a big 'un. Our gratitude will be beyond words.

Before we get to our main investigative piece, we need to look at a couple of other stories...

Terror in the UK: Our sympathies and thoughts go out to the victims of the attack on the Finsbury Park Mosque, which has finally been officially labeled an act of terrorism.
Witnesses said he 'deliberately' drove onto the pavement outside north London's Muslim Welfare House - yards from the Finsbury Park Mosque - and jumped out of the cab shouting 'I'm going to kill all Muslims - I did my bit'.
A similar horror took place in Virginia:
A 17-year-old Muslim girl identified as Nabra was kidnapped and beaten to death early Sunday morning in Sterling, Virginia. She was reported as missing at roughly 4 a.m. and now police believe they have found her body in a pond.
So far, Donald Trump's twitter feed has mentioned neither of these outrages.

Roger Stone. The Roger Stone/Alex Jones team-up has been absolutely boggling. After building a formidable rep as a conspiratorial-mastermind-for-hire, Stone now pretends to be the victim of dark and evil forces. It's a surreal situation: Roger Stone is one of the original Watergaters and the king of the dirty tricksters, yet our modern paranoia addicts consider him an apostle of fair play and decency. What's next? Will the Infowarriors proclaim Pablo Escobar to be the saint of non-violence?

Stone's name came up an NBC News story published yesterday: "NBC News Exclusive: Memo Shows Watergate Prosecutors Had Evidence Nixon White House Plotted Violence." In 1972, Nixonians planned to use bullyboys from YAF (Young Americans for Freedom, a notorious right-wing group of the time) to mount a violent physical attack against Daniel Ellsberg as he spoke -- along with William Kunstler and other notables -- at an anti-war rally on the Capitol steps. The Watergate Committee investigated the incident and outlined their findings in a memo that has remained unreleased until now.

Roger Stone was also interviewed. Here's a tidbit that everyone seems to have missed...

"Carl Rove"? Is that Turdblossom back when he was a young turd? Must be! Stone now seems to despise Rove, calling him a "political profiteer" -- unlike Stone himself, who always does what he does for the purest of motives, just like Jesus or Barry Allen. Also see here.

Ivanka, Donald and their "Poker Venture." Just after I had announced to the world that I was so over Louise Mensch, she publishes a truly fascinating bit of research which relies on open-source material instead of nameless informants. Okay, okay: The Nameless Ones do pop up in a couple of paragraphs. Readers of her piece should mentally excise those bits and double-check the rest.
Ivanka has been linked to eleven companies in the Trump financial disclosures. Her status has been put to “Inactive” on several odd holding companies...
The most immediately interesting company of Ivanka Trump’s is “Poker Venture Managing Member Corp“.  This is owned by Donald and Ivanka Trump. Ivanka’s company with her father itself is an officer of this very dodgy-looking shell, “Poker Venture LLC.” Judging by the corporation wiki, there is panic in Team Ivanka and Team Trump over “Poker Venture“.  It shows zero “Key People”, and has two other almost identical companies as its officers – the live, active PVMMC that Ivanka co-owns with her pops, and this “Inactive” attempt to clean Ivanka out of the picture: by: Poker Venture Managing Member Corp by: Donald J. Trump.

Those touring “Corporation Wiki” will be surprised to see that “Poker Venture Managing Member Corp by: Donald J Trump” lists itself as an officer of inactive “Poker Venture”, yet when one clicks on the gray icon, one is taken to the same active company.

All very strange.
I'll say! Beyond the fact that Trump allegedly divested himself of his business interests, isn't it a little unseemly for the President of the United States to be listed as the owner of a company called Poker Venture Managing Member Corp, which filed in Nevada?

This company is related to another enterprise called simply Poker Ventures, whose listed address is 725 5th Avenue, New York, NY -- Trump Tower. Mensch seems to have missed that part, although she thinks that this "Poker" business somehow links up to the botnet which she believes is run out of Trump Tower. (I see no evidence for this beyond the inscrutable pronouncements of The Nameless Ones.)

I'll tell you something else that Louise Mensch seems to have missed: This Poker Venture business appears to link up to some scandalous doings outlined in one of my previous posts (of which I happen to be quite proud). It's hard to summarize that complicated piece, but I'll try.

A Russian "Godfather" named Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov ran a shady operation out of Trump Tower -- specifically, unit 63A, not far below Trump's own living quarters. It was so shady that the FBI had bugged the joint. (We're talking money laundering.)

Tokhtakhounov -- known as "Little Taiwan" or "Taiwanchik" because he looks Asian -- is the guy who linked Donald Trump up with the world of beauty contests in Russia. Taiwanchik has his fingers in all sorts of interesting deals -- for example, he was once arrested for rigging an Olympic figure skating competition.

Tokhtakhounov had partners in his New York enterprise -- Vadim Trincher and Anatoly Golubchik. (Trincher was the 2009 world poker champion.) They were tried and convicted. Guess who put 'em away? Preet Bharara.

That's right: The U.S. attorney famously fired by Donald Trump secured convictions against two guys running a criminal enterprise right below Trump's feet in Trump Tower.
Dirty money must needs be laundered, right? One great way to launder money is via the world of art. Banks won't ask too many questions if you tell 'em that someone just paid twenty million for a Picasso.

Enter Helly Nahmad, who used to run a tony art gallery in Manhattan. His family is worth some $3 billion...
From a 2013 story in the NYT:
Mr. Nahmad, a night-life fixture known for his showy extravagance and celebrity crowd — a $21 million Trump Tower apartment and friendships with people like Gisele Bündchen and Leonardo DiCaprio — was charged in April in a racketeering indictment brought by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. He was accused of being part financier, part money launderer and part bookmaker in a network that organized poker games and sports betting operations and drew hundred-thousand-dollar wagers from celebrities and billionaires.
The feds knew his secrets because they were listening in on Nahmad's cellphone chats.
But Helly’s interest in gambling led to trouble. The high-stakes poker and sports-betting ring that he is accused of helping to lead — with activity stretching from New York and Los Angeles — ultimately came to the attention of federal authorities who were investigating Russian organized crime figures.

Mr. Nahmad helped not only to bankroll the operation, according to prosecutors, but was also personally involved in taking sports bets. In all, 34 people were indicted in the case. The lead defendant is Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, whom authorities identify as a high-ranking Russian gangster known by his nickname, Taiwanchik.
All of this has to do with the world of high-stakes poker. These people linked up with a coast-to-coast gambling operation which attracted a number of Hollywood celebrities, including Ben Affleck and Tobey Maguire.

My original post has many more details -- and by "many" I mean MANY. (Check out the Cyprus connection, which takes in Nahmad, Taiwanchik and Trump himself.) But right now, I want you to focus on "the holy game of poker."

1. Donald and Ivanka run something called "Poker Venture," headquartered in Trump Tower but incorporated in Nevada.

2. Directly below Trump's living quarters was a crooked enterprise run by Russian crime lord Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, whose links to Trump himself are beyond dispute. Tokhtakhounov got away; he is now in Russia.

3. Helly Nahmad, who also had a Trump Tower address, was involved with a nationwide (actually international) high-stakes poker ring.

4. Nahmad and Tokhtakhounov deny knowing each other, even though Preet Bahrara named them both as co-defendants when he made a case against this money laundering/gambling operation. They also both link up with Trincher and the other defendants.

It may be as well to quote from the above-cited 2013 US Attorney's Office press release:
The Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization is a nationwide criminal enterprise with strong ties to Russia and Ukraine. The leadership of the organization ran an international sportsbook that catered primarily to Russian oligarchs living in Russia and Ukraine and throughout the world. The Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization laundered tens of millions of dollars in proceeds from the gambling operation from Russia and the Ukraine through shell companies and bank accounts in Cyprus, and from Cyprus into the U.S. Once the money arrived in the U.S, it was either laundered through additional shell companies or invested in seemingly legitimate investments, such as hedge funds or real estate.
Speaking of which: Many people have wondered who helped Jared Kushner purchase that ridiculously overpriced skyscraper at 666 Fifth Avenue. (I'm not claiming to have proof of a connection. I'm just sayin'.) For that matter, quite a few people have asked wondered why anyone would invest in Donald Trump's various properties, given the rather odd way he does business.

Let's get back to that press release:
The Nahmad-Trincher Organization is a nationwide criminal enterprise with leadership in Los Angeles, California, and New York City. The organization ran a high-stakes illegal gambling business that catered primarily to multi-millionaire and billionaire clients. The organization utilized several online gambling websites that operated illegally in the U.S. Debts owed to the Nahmad-Trincher Organization sometimes reached hundreds of thousands of dollars and even millions.
NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said: “The subjects in this case ran high-stakes illegal poker games and online gambling, proceeds from which are alleged to have been funneled to organized crime overseas. The one thing they didn't bet on was the New York City police and federal investigators’ attention. I commend the NYPD Organized Crime Investigations Division and their partners in the FBI and U.S. Attorney Bharara's office for identifying and bringing the members of this organization to justice.”
Well, we know what Trump did to Bharara. No good deed goes unpunished.

The question before us is this: Is the "Poker Ventures" that lists Donald and Ivanka as owners -- and which lists Trump Tower as its address -- part of the very real "poker venture" run by criminals living right below Donald's feet in that very same building?

I can't prove it. But the nomenclature sure as hell makes the idea seem inescapable.

Nomenclature isn't all we have to go on. Let's return to Louise Mensch's article (stressing, once again, that this piece -- unlike much of her recent work -- derives from open sources, all properly cited)...
Equally odd is that the state of New Jersey – (Ivanka Trump has a New Jersey address listed as one of her business records, associated with Poker Ventures) – has added to its newly published list of “Internet Gaming Ancillary Companies” both Poker Ventures LLC, which was already listed, but also “Novacorp Net Ltd”, “VidMob Inc” and “Reblaze Technologies”.
So: Poker Ventures has to do with online gambling. (The legality of online gaming is a matter of some dispute.) Remember: The crooked Nahmad/Trincher operation also involved online gambling.

And Poker Ventures LLC does indeed appear on that list compiled by the state of New Jersey. See for yourself.

Mensch goes on to connect Poker Ventures up with some other notable names on that list, shady concerns which have definite connections to both Russians and Israelis. One of these enterprises,  Reblaze Technologies, seems to have little to do with gambling and much to do with hacking: publishes anti-NSA blogs such as these, lauding the ‘hacking tools’ leaked by Shadow Brokers. Reblaze also offers lists of “protect your website” services you can buy from Russian hackers [sic], listing, ostensibly to protect against them, the full range of tools employed on Russia’s hack of America; its founder repeated the anti-NSA blog in an article that reads as a threat to hack America on Medium in December 2016.
Fascinating stuff. That "protect your website" scam reminds me of the hoary "watch your car" racket illustrated in those old Dead End Kid movies. You should hit those links; they take you into very odd places.

Unfortunately, we don't yet have any proof (beyond the word of Mensch's Nameless Ones) that this Reblaze business is tied up with Trump's Poker Ventures. Pity that: The possibilities are very intriguing.

For that matter, I must reiterate that I cannot prove that Donald and Ivanka's weird foray into the worlds of poker and online gaming is part-and-parcel of the poker and online gaming operation run by Helly Mahmad and his Russian gangster associates. But come on: It's hard not to conclude that we're dealing with two ingredients from the same stew-pot. These poker-related ventures form a Venn diagram in which the two circles seem nearly congruent. You can't fairly accuse me of leaping to wild conclusions: This ain't the kind of hazy guff you get from Alex Jones.

Louise Mensch, if you're reading these words: Thanks for returning to the world of real investigative writing. In the future, I hope you stop relying on the private sources who have provided you with so many dubious scoops. You'll have much more impact if you continue to provide stories that can be verified.

I strongly urge you to look into the possible links between "Poker Ventures" and the real-world poker venture in Trump Tower.

And please: Next time you feel tempted to accuse a perceived adversary of being a Russian spy, bite your tongue until it bleeds. A little more caution in your rhetoric will help you in the long run.

Finally: If these words have proven intriguing or enlightening to you, please consider dinging that PayPal account. It's already infernally muggy in here -- several degrees hotter than the temps outside. I feel like I'm melting.
Not meaning to give you an alternative solution, but I just found an amazing fan at Costco for $39.95. Has multiple settings for determining how long it runs, what temperature it shuts off, it can rotate, or not, and it's Whisper quiet. I found the lowest speed setting ideal. Basically it can be set to shut off once the room reaches a certain temperature or a certain amount of time has elapsed. I think the energy consumption is super low because of the lightweight design.
Might as well score a utilitarian first step via this fan while you battle the air conditioning issue. The fan is made by Lasko and has U.S. customer support via an 800 number.
It's the 18 inch Lasko pedestal fan. My only criticism is I wish it could go a foot higher, but that was easily fixable with a stand that I put it on.
You played the sucker card with the dog and I donated. You bastard.
Done it's not much and hopefully others will help.

Try and buy a model with energy save mode that way you can set a temp and the unit will keep there and turning off and on as needed.

Good luck, it's 105f in my part of Calli but humidity only 31%
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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Is there a secret tape of Newt saying shocking things about Trump and Russia?

This is a long-ish post about anonymous sources.

Many respected mainstream writers have used them. Lately, though, non-mainstream writers have made some very startling claims based (they say) on information from unnamed insiders. And that's a problem.

Consider, for example, the case of Watergate's Deep Throat, the most famous anonymous source of all time. Everyone knows that Throat turned out to be FBI man Mark Felt, who "came out" a few years before his death in 2008. There are solid reasons to suspect that Woodward cultivated other sources whom he has never identified -- sources who worked for a Certain Interesting Agency. (See here, here and here.) Woodward's description of Throat -- a lanky, chain-smoking, hard-drinking "former military man with intellectual proclivities" -- describes Jim Angleton one hell of a lot better than it describes Mark Felt.

The tale of Throat exemplifies one of the main problems with anonymous sourcing: Even after the story has reached a resolution, mysteries may linger. After the Big Reveal, nobody subjected Felt to some much-needed intensive questioning because he was quite elderly.

Still, Woodward and Bernstein were not indulging in "fake news" when they wrote their Throat-based stories (even though Nixon might have used that term if it was in circulation at the time). The famous duo's reportage turned out to be accurate, even if they did keep the Agency in the shadows. They revealed the name of their source to their editor, Ben Bradlee, and reportedly to a few other people (including the remarkable J. Stanley Pottinger).

Most importantly: Woodward and Bernstein worked for a reputable journalistic institution which has never been inclined to publish anything likely to result in a libel case. The WP must be careful because it has sufficiently deep pockets to justify a lawsuit.

The same cannot be said of some of today's storytellers.

Take, for example, this remarkable headline in The Palmer Report, a repository for all of the wilder Trumpgate claims made on any given day:
Report: FBI has recordings of Newt Gingrich setting up Trump-Russia meetings during campaign
A headline like that would raise the eyebrows of anyone not named Mona Lisa. But what is the basis for this claim? It traces back to a writer who goes by the handle Puesto Loco, which, according to Google Translate, means "put out crazy." Not a pseudonym likely to inspire confidence.

Here's his tweet:
FBI has Sept, 2016 tapes of Newt Gingrich setting up multiple Team Trump/Russia meetings with Kislyak et al. (reliable source)
And here's the photo montage he put together:

Not many hours later, Mr. Loco tweeted another big claim:
Sources tell me there's enough House GOPers who've pledged that if Trump fires Mueller & Ryan interferes rehiring him, Ryan will be ousted.
This assertion also comes with a photo montage:

I wouldn't dismiss the possibility that the Germans "have something" on Trump. But I do have a simple question: What is Merkel's motive for keeping the secrets of Ryan, McConnell and Trump at this stage of the game?

Here's an even better question: Why would we be learning this tidbit from a little-known tweeter who calls himself Puesto Loco? Why would an insider divulge such important material to that guy, and not to the Washington Post or the NYT or even Buzzfeed? It just don't add up!

Here's how Mr. Loco describes himself:
Military Anchor Baby - My Mom never saw the irony in calling me a Son-of-a-Bitch. GOP fascism is destroying my country.
He gives his location as "Florida Central West Coast." (Incidentally, CIA personnel often retire to Central Florida, though usually on the east coast.) Mr. Loco offers another photo montage which bears on the very problem under discussion in this post:

While I'm hardly in a position to dismiss all conspiracy theories, the problems on display here should be obvious:

1. Someone displaying this level of concern about credibility should not have chosen "Puesto Loco" as his nomme-de-net.

2. Although I remain fascinated by her, Louise Mensch has so thoroughly damaged her reputation by this point that even the Palmer Report won't link to her anymore. You can't blame spooks for that situation; she did it to herself. Besides, Mensch loves spooks. She's a spook fangirl.

3. I've read a lot about Allen Dulles. Maybe I'm forgetting something, but I'm pretty sure that he never said anything about demonizing the term "conspiracy theory." However: As any student of the JFK assassination knows, Dulles' CIA pioneered the technique of using sensationalized claims to hide the truth. It is legitimate to suspect that this technique is still in use.

About a week ago, Puesto Loco and Louise Mensch separately offered the same scoop -- a claimed linkage between Paul Ryan and Wikileaks. (I've seen no evidence to back this scenario.) As we've seen, Mr. Loco has risen to the defense of Louise Mensch. And yet, just yesterday, Mensch accused Mr. Loco of being...

Oh hell. Do I even need to say it? This is Louise Mensch we're talking about...
For example puesto loco tweets many true things but is also Russian intelligence.
As are so, so many others. Louise, since you are very free with paranoid accusations, how about one for little ol' me?

Look, I'll help you out. Here's the incontrovertible proof of my perfidy: I've read War and Peace. I like Tarkovsky's films. As a teen, I once traveled 40 miles by bus in the rain to see a double bill of Potemkin and October. I've met Marina Oswald Porter. I picked up a few Russian words from A Clockwork Orange. I occasionally drink vodka. When it comes to heavy metal, I'll take Khatchaturian's Third Symphony over Metallica any day.

(Betcha didn't know that Aram Khatchaturian invented heavy metal in 1947. Someone should re-score that piece for electric guitar instead of organ.)

And yet I don't think that Mensch is a disinformation agent, at least not a witting one.

True, there's a lot of evidence against her: Her friendship with the vile Milo Yiannopoulos, her work for the even viler Rupert Murdoch, her pre-election paranoid fantasias directed at Hillary Clinton, her vaguely pro-Trump pre-election tweets (issued under the name Louise Bagshawe), her membership in the same Tory party that supplies Cambridge Analytica with so many top employees, her generally divisive behavior, and -- of course -- her many unlikely scoops based on intel from nameless insiders who, for some unfathomable reason, would rather talk to her than to (say) Michael Isikoff or Kurt Eichenwald.

One could also cite her propensity to spook-bait fellow anti-Trumpers. Yet this is precisely the factor which inclines me to think that she is sincere: A professional disinformationist would make a greater effort to maintain credibility -- and would strive to be liked.

Hm. I suppose that a similar argument could be made in favor of Puesto Loco. Wouldn't a witting agent be more likely to call himself "Muy cuerdo" or something like that?

And then there's John Schindler, perhaps the best-known of the "spooks against Trump." Surprisingly few people recall this remarkable piece from May 26, in which Schindler discusses a secret meeting between NSA Director Mike Rogers and key employees:
This week’s town hall event, which was broadcast to agency facilities worldwide, was therefore met with surprise and anticipation by the NSA workforce, and Rogers did not disappoint. I have spoken with several NSA officials who witnessed the director’s talk and I’m reporting their firsthand accounts, which corroborate each other, on condition of anonymity.

In his town hall talk, Rogers reportedly admitted that President Trump asked him to discredit the FBI and James Comey, which the admiral flatly refused to do. As Rogers explained, he informed the commander in chief, “I know you won’t like it, but I have to tell what I have seen”—a probable reference to specific intelligence establishing collusion between the Kremlin and Team Trump.

Rogers then added that such SIGINT exists, and it is damning. He stated, “There is no question that we [meaning NSA] have evidence of election involvement and questionable contacts with the Russians.” Although Rogers did not cite the specific intelligence he was referring to, agency officials with direct knowledge have informed me that DIRNSA was obviously referring to a series of SIGINT reports from 2016 based on intercepts of communications between known Russian intelligence officials and key members of Trump’s campaign, in which they discussed methods of damaging Hillary Clinton.

NSA employees walked out of the town hall impressed by the director’s forthright discussion of his interactions with the Trump administration, particularly with how Rogers insisted that he had no desire to “politicize” the situation beyond what the president has already done. America’s spies are unaccustomed to playing partisan politics as Trump has apparently asked them to do, and it appears that the White House’s ham-fisted effort to get NSA to attack the FBI and its credibility was a serious mistake.

It’s therefore high time for the House and Senate intelligence committees to invite Admiral Rogers to talk to them about what transpired with the White House. It’s evident that DIRNSA has something important to say.
Here's the thing: Since Schindler wrote those words, Rogers has testified to Congress. And he played Johnny Tightlips, at least in the open session. If, in the closed session, he had said anything this startling and damning, we probably would have received some indication by now.

I mean, what would be the purpose of continued secrecy? And why the hell would Comey (who supposedly has all of the NSA's juiciest material) keep these SIGINT reports under wraps?

Schindler wants us to believe that a whole bunch of NSA guys and a whole bunch of congressfolk (of both parties) and the former FBI Director have absolutely damning evidence that Trump conspired with Russians. Yet instead of using this evidence, they all prefer to let Trump continue to hang on to the nuclear launch codes.

Does that make sense to you?

Reality Winner revealed that the NSA possesses evidence of Russian interference with our voting systems. We didn't get that from Admiral Rogers. Why not? Keeping a thing like that secret from the American public is, in and of itself, an act of collusion with Russia.

Yes, the NSA is traditionally the most secretive of agencies, and Rogers is no doubt an extremely circumspect individual. I know all that. But I don't care. If Russia has hacked our vote, then we need to know. Period. No excuses. On rare occasions, secrecy is tantamount to complicity.

Here's a more sensible theory: NSA chieftain Mike Rogers, like former DIA chieftain Michael Flynn, is on Team Trump -- which explains why the NSA keeps Trump's dirty secrets. 

No, I can't prove that theory -- but I can point to this overlooked nugget from Rachel Maddow:
Maddow began her conspiratorial suggestion by first noting how highly publicized Trump’s transition was, specifically when it came to who was coming in and out of the golden elevators. But she noted that nine days after the election, a serving Obama administration official made a surprise visit to Trump Tower. It was Admiral Mike Rogers.

She pointed to an NBC News report that showed Rogers “took a personal day” to visit the president-elect and to an NPR report that Rogers never told the sitting president (aka President Obama) that he was going to meet with Trump. Maddow then seemed to agree with The Wall Street Journal‘s report that Rogers was seeking a promotion to become the Director of National Intelligence (a job that ultimately went to Dan Coats).

Maddow was relishing a WaPo report that came out days later that then-DNI James Clapper and then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter urged then-President Obama to fire Rogers from the NSA.

Before moving on to Rogers’s testimony, Maddow concluded by saying that this was a “very strange story.”
Indeed! Please note: Maddow's story cannot be reconciled with Schindler's tale, at least not easily.

So: Did Schindler's sources tell him the truth about what Rogers said? What about Mr. Loco's sources? Ms. Mensch's?

The best way to hide a Hershey's Kiss is in a pile of horseshit.
Google translation misled you. Puesto is the past participle of the verb poner, which means to put. So puesto loco likely means made crazy, or driven crazy, which would fit well for a Twitter handle. -
Another meaning of Puesto, depending on the country from where the writer comes from, is Post. Which would translate Crazy Post.

I don't think anyone would accuse Rachael Maddow of being "disinformation" yet I was surprised to learn about her warm relationship with...Roger Ailes...

The twitter paranoids are an internecine bunch that periodically seem to collapse into infighting of the "who else would give a fuck" kind. It does give there rest of us an opportunity to experience the world of counter-intelligence--who to trust, who not--without our day-to-day lives depending on it. We helpless onlookers....
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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Beeve Stannon

As many of you already know, the House Intel Committee wants to question Brad Parscale, the "digital director" for the Trump campaign. Republican strategist Rick Wilson, a columnist for the Daily Beast, offered the following tweet:
A little bird tells me that a certain White House staff member whose name rhymes with Beeve Stannon is crapping diamonds over Parscale.
Remember: A White House staffer whose name rhymes with Beeve Stannon used to be in charge of Cambridge Analytica.

Is Georgia on your mind? Forget it. The race is already over. Ossof is ahead, but not to a sufficient degree.

Those who accept the reality of election hacking understand that it would be too suspicious to manipulate the results if the spread is larger than three percent (roughly speaking). In the much-ballyhooed race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel, Ossof is now ahead by a mere 1.5 points. He's well within the margin of error. The error always favors the GOP in important races. Funny how that happens.

Sorry, but Ossoff will lose. There will be plenty of "blame the Dems" handwringing afterward, and a whole bunch of Trumpian triumphalism. This shit will continue until responsible people in the media start to admit that our concerns about computerized vote-rigging are legit.

This piece in Politico just came to my attention: "Will the Georgia Special Election Get Hacked?"
Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Foundation, which sued the state last month to prevent it from using the voting machines in the upcoming runoff, says Americans have reason to be concerned about the integrity of Georgia’s election system—and the state’s puzzling lack of interest in addressing its vulnerabilities. “The security weaknesses recently exposed would be a welcome mat for bad actors.”
The story focuses on a cybersecurity specialist named Logan Lamb who almost accidentally hacked into the state's voting system.
Within the mother lode Lamb found on the center’s website was a database containing registration records for the state’s 6.7 million voters; multiple PDFs with instructions and passwords for election workers to sign in to a central server on Election Day; and software files for the state’s ExpressPoll pollbooks — electronic devices used by pollworkers to verify that a voter is registered before allowing them to cast a ballot. There also appeared to be databases for the so-called GEMS servers. These Global Election Management Systems are used to prepare paper and electronic ballots, tabulate votes and produce summaries of vote totals.

The files were supposed to be behind a password-protected firewall, but the center had misconfigured its server so they were accessible to anyone, according to Lamb. “You could just go to the root of where they were hosting all the files and just download everything without logging in,” Lamb says.

And there was another problem: The site was also using a years-old version of Drupal — content management software — that had a critical software vulnerability long known to security researchers.
Lamb was concerned that hackers might already have penetrated the center’s site, a scenario that wasn’t improbable given news reports of intruders probing voter registration systems and election websites; if they had breached the center’s network, they could potentially have planted malware on the server to infect the computers of county election workers who accessed it, thereby giving attackers a backdoor into election offices throughout the state; or they could possibly have altered software files the center distributed to Georgia counties prior to the presidential election, depending on where those files were kept.

The center has played a critical role in the state’s elections for more than a decade, not only by testing the touch-screen voting machines used throughout the state and maintaining the software that’s used in the machines, but also by providing support for the GEMS servers that tabulate votes and creating and distributing the electronic ballot definition files that go into each voting machine before elections. These files tell the machines which candidate should receive a vote based on where a voter touches the screen. If someone were to alter the files, machines could be made to record votes for the wrong candidate.
Still think Ossoff has a chance? If you talk about the Georgia election purely in terms of Russian hacking, you're missing the point. Even if we leave Russia out of this, we have quite the scandal here.
After Lamb discovered the initial problems last August, he notified Merle King, executive director at the center, who thanked Lamb and said he would get the server fixed. It was months before the presidential election, and King pressed Lamb not to talk about the issue with anyone, especially the media.

“He said, It would be best if you were to drop this now,” Lamb recalls. King also said that if Lamb did talk, “the people downtown, the politicians … would crush” Lamb.
The vulnerability remains in place.

Syria. Here's a headline some of you may not have expected:
Exclusive: White House Officials Push For Widening War in Syria Over Pentagon Objections
A pair of top White House officials is pushing to broaden the war in Syria, viewing it as an opportunity to confront Iran and its proxy forces on the ground there, according to two sources familiar with the debate inside the Donald Trump administration.

Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, and Derek Harvey, the NSC’s top Middle East advisor, want the United States to start going on the offensive in southern Syria, where, in recent weeks, the U.S. military has taken a handful of defensive actions against Iranian-backed forces fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Thank god Hillary didn't win. She's such a warmonger, you know.

Paul Ryan. Why did this former Trump critic become Trump's catamite? $20 million may have had something to do with it.
The swamp needs to be fire-bombed. The MSM are useless.
Thank you for this. Lamb brought out an excellent point that I hadn't thought through, which is once system is hacked all sort of perfidy is possible. While I'm not in denial that hacking and most probably vote rigging are occurring, I can't bring myself to think of all of the repercussions.

Also excellent point that Russians can't be blamed 100%. Rethugs have been tampering with voting registration records since at least 2000. My concern is that the focus on the Russians, while important, diverts concern from those in US who most probably initiated these activities and found a willing ally in Russia.
I had merely been assuming that the Grody Old Perverts did not want to investigate the Russian interference story because Russian interference had benefitted their party. However, they would have extra motive to bury the story if investigation of Russian meddling in our election processes could bring Rethuglican meddling in our election processes to light.
You were right, Ossoff lost by about 4 or 5%. However, that was a huge reduction in margin of victory from prior races in that district, so perhaps it's a pyrrhic victory for both sides of the political realm.
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