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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Shutdown! Plus: Trump's WH lover

This shutdown feels different from the previous ones, doesn't it? More serious. More dangerous.

Before going any further, let's make one thing quite clear: Of course I support DACA, and I oppose the wall. In fact, I oppose pretty much everything the Trumpers have proposed.

Nevertheless, I feel that the Dems have overplayed their hand. Doom is nigh. The all-important goal of recapturing Congress may be in danger.

(You didn't come to this blog expecting to hear from Dr. Pangloss, did you?)

Yes, it is true that polls indicate that more people blame Trump and/or the Republicans than blame the Dems -- at least, that was how people felt yesterday. But until this morning, that poll question was just another way of asking: "Do you like Trump?" Most average American won't give the shutdown much serious thought until they've taken in this day's news and commentary.

I also know that polls indicate that most Americans support DACA. But the only poll that counts is this one:
With hours to go before a midnight deadline for Congress to fund the government or shut it down, most Americans say avoiding a shutdown is more important than passing a bill to maintain the program allowing people brought to the US illegally as children to stay, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.
That's it and that's it and that is it. Nothing else matters.

The Republicans can now frame the situation thus: "Dems proved that they care more about illegal immigrants than about...[fill in the blank with the government program of your choice]."

And you know what? It's an easy frame to construct, because it's made out of truth.

Okay, it's not completely true. There are always complexities. Trump said (in essence) "I'll sign any bipartisan deal that you present to me," but when just such a deal was presented, Trump went back on his word, probably because Ann Coulter and other deplorables said mean things.

So the "Blame Trump" argument has some force behind it. Nevertheless, the Republicans are going to marshal all of their considerable media forces to convince the population that Those damned Dems diddit.

Never forget that the Republicans control the most powerful news netowrk in the country, along with many newspapers, nearly all of talk radio, and much of the internet. They (and their Russian buddies) still control a massive troll army which can drive the narrative on Facebook and Twitter. They upload YouTube videos constantly. The bots can commandeer the comments sections of every website that will allow that sort of thing to happen.

Within recent memory, the right-wing propagandists managed to convince the country that Benghazi and Emailgate were something other than bullshit. The right's media empire won't have much trouble convincing people that Dems care more about illegal immigrants than about, say funding CHIPS or paying benefits to war widows or keeping the National Air and Space Museum open.

Weaver weighs in. To prove my point once and for all, go here and read Jeff Weaver's praise of Democratic "purity" on DACA. Jeff wants the Dems to be ever more intransigent, because political suicide in the name of progressive purity is no vice. 'No compromises! Ever!' says Jeffy-poo, even if a hardline stance means that the Dems have to give up all chance of regaining the House.

Weaver is, of course, the demon who transformed the Bernie campaign (which began on a reasonable note) into an orgy of Hillary-hate. Remember?
The theft of highly valued, early state Hillary Clinton voter data by the Bernie Sanders campaign was unethical, absolutely worthy of DNC sanction, and possibly criminal.

The Sanders’ campaign response to the exposure of getting caught was, on the other hand, surprising and, regrettably, worse than the theft itself. Instead of quickly taking responsibility, mitigating damage, and moving forward, Bernie himself was nowhere to be found [Update: directly challenged at the debate, Sanders apologized], while Jeff Weaver relished the role of a Democratic Karl Rove, projecting the fault of the accused onto the accuser.

Worse still, Weaver carried this message of reverse victimization to Sanders’ supporters, creating an epistemic closure narrative worthy of the worst of conservative media.
Remember when the Sanders campaign created a fake version of the Confluence website, filling it with anti-Hillary vitriol? This unwanted "facelift" proved quite surprising to fans of the real site, which happens to be the place where the PUMA movement was born.

Do I blame Weaver for that? You bet. See the video at the bottom of this post for a shocking reminder of Weaver's dirty tricks. The guy was and is every bit as shameless and disgusting as Roger Stone is.

We now know that the Bernie camp's cyber shennanigans had plenty of help from the Russians. I have no doubt that Jeff Weaver, if pressed, would insist that he had no knowledge of what the Russians were doing. Can't you just imagine his reaction? "No collusion! No collusion! Collusion is dead! Believe me!"

Trump's lover. Last night, Michael Wolff told Bill Maher that Trump is, or until recently was, having an affair in the White House. Wolff also alleged that there is a paragraph toward the end of his book which subtly hints at this situation.

(By the way, Wolff displayed great comic timing and delivery during that segment. He reminded me of Wally Shawn, who proved that a man of letters can have a second career as a screen funnyman. Perhaps Wolff can follow his lead?)

Most people suspect that Trump's mistress is Hope Hicks. Maybe, but...naah. She doesn't have my vote. Why not? Same reason I never wanted Deep Throat to be Mark Felt: Too obvious.

Others believe that the paragraph in question pinpoints Nikki Haley.
Wolff said that the paragraph in question was “toward the end” of the book. Here’s what we’ve found on page 343, which very near the end of the book: “By October, however, many of the president’s staff took particular notice of one of the few remaining Trump opportunists: Nikki Haley, the UN ambassador. Haley – ‘as ambitious as Lucifer,’ in the characterization of one member of the senior staff – had concluded that Trump’s tenure would last, at best, a single term, and that she, with the requisite submission, could be his heir apparent.”

The book goes on to say that “[Haley] had become a particular focus of Trump’s attention, and he of hers.” It then ends with “The president had been spending a notable amount of private time with Haley on Air Force One.” Again, we’re not making any accusations or assertions here. We’re simply attempting to figure out which paragraph Michael Wolff is referring to as part of his assertion that Trump has been having a White House affair.

Nikki Haley, as UN Ambassador, does not work in the White House. However, Wolff did point out that pretty much anyone can be snuck into Trump’s chaotic White House without garnering a lot of attention.
A lot of this makes sense. But I'd like to mention another possibility.

During the "shithole" controversy, Alex Jones offered a rant in which he denied that Trump could be a racist because he (Trump) has had a secret black lover. Jones even hinted that this news could be made public soon.

Mind you, I'm going on memory here. Please understand that something like four million "shithole" articles have passed before my eyes, so there is some possibility that I've confused one shithole reaction with another. Yeah, I know what you want to say right now: "Well, go find the actual article and provide a link." Have a little pity, willya? Nobody wants to begin his day poring through the wit and wisdom of Alex Jones.

Bottom line: I'm fairly certain that AJ said words to that effect. If I'm right -- and if he's right -- then we have one obvious candidate for Trump's mystery date: Omarosa Manicault Newman.

Remember the circumstances of her firing?
According to reporter April Ryan, the general was warned, “all hell will break loose” if Newman lost walk-in privileges.

Kelly reportedly responded, “Okay, all hell is going to break loose.”

And all available accounts suggest Newman lived up to that promise. She reportedly screamed, cursed, and tried to get into the residence to see the president, even setting off the White House security system in her attempts.
Omarosa says it didn't happen that way. In fact, she says that she quit.

Perhaps so, but the earliest reports all agree that she somehow made her way up to Trump's bedroom, which is a very unusual thing for a West Wing staffer to do. A Chief of Staff and a few others might venture up there in an emergency, but most people working in that building simply would not dare.

If April Ryan had the story right, then it makes sense to presume that Omarosa had also gone up to the residence on previous occasions. Perhaps the sight of her heading in that direction didn't seem so unusual to those guarding the hall.

The main problem with this theory is that Omarosa receives but one mention in the Wolff book, about 1/3 of the way through. Hicks and Haley are both mentioned toward the end.

Needless to say, Jones is wrong: Sleeping with a black woman does not automatically make one a non-racist. As most of you know, I once researched the life of Aleister Crowley. He had at least one black lover -- plus a number of Asian lovers and Hipsanic lovers and male lovers and... Hell. Let's just say that Crowley was the kind of guy who could lay a brick. Yet he still felt comfortable using the word "nigger" and other repellent terms.

Lots of plantation owners had sex with their slaves.

And now for the video I promised you. It's short and definitely worth a re-watch...


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Comments:
Apparently "the market" was not upset about the prospect of a government shutdown. My IRA has recovered my mandatory withdrawal taken in December, and then some.

Regarding the affair rumors: Wolff may have been suckered into making the claim. Once disproved, all his previous work becomes suspect.
 
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Friday, January 19, 2018

Bannon again

Here's a quick follow-up to last night's post on Bannon. In our previous installment, I argued against the proposition that Bannon has flipped -- and I scoffed at Rachel Maddow/Robert Palmer theory that Mueller, not Trump, was the one who ordered Bannon to stonewall the Intel Committee. Now we have this, from the Hill...
President Trump reportedly ordered that former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon limit his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

Trump's decision came after receiving advice from Uttam Dhillon, a deputy White House counsel, Foreign Policy reports.

Dhillon reportedly thought the administration could have legitimate executive privilege claims in the situation, sources told Foreign Policy. But Dhillon also found the administration doesn't have legitimate executive privilege claims to limit the testimony of Bannon and other officials from giving information to special counsel Robert Mueller.
The obvious question: Why is Steve Bannon still taking orders from Donald Trump?

Everything is transactional with these guys. Bannon must be motivated by either a threat or a promise. A stick or a carrot. Or both.

So what is the carrot and what is the stick?

(I love Maddow, but on this occasion, she went down the wrong trail.)
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Comments:
"President Trump reportedly ordered that former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon limit his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee."

Isn't that contempt of Congress or something? Surely if it's true then Trump was acting ultra vires?
 
Is Trump having an affair at the WH?
 
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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Toward a "Theory of Bannon"



A project kept me away from blogging yesterday. Actually, what really kept me away was bewilderment: I could not figure out what to think of Bannon's testimony. We know about his appearance before the Intel Committee only from partial reports; here is the fullest account yet published.

Everything depends on whether or not Bannon has turned, or will turn, on Trump. Right now, I don't think that he will.

The alleged pledge to cooperate with Mueller means little, since we're dealing with a group of people who lie all the time. So far, all evidence indicates that Bannon is still on Team Trump, even though Bannon and Trump have reason to hate each other.

In his appearance before Congress, Bannon claimed executive privilege, or something like it, for his every interaction with Trump -- before the election, during the transition, in the White House, and post-White House. We all know the score. Trump demands omerta, and he doesn't care much about whether silence has a legal justification. Neither does he care if his underlings face unpleasant consequences.

In his demands for fanatical loyalty, Trump reminds me of the 12th century Ismaili leader Hassan-i Sabbah, who (according to legend) would entertain guests by ordering one of his Fedayeen warriors to leap off a cliff.

Given all of the harsh words and mutual contempt, given the clash of two egos so massive that one planet cannot contain both, why would Steve Bannon hurl himself from a cliff at Trump's command?

Why did Bannon expose himself legally? Why did he outrage even the House Republicans? Why did his lawyer continually check in with the White House? Why this...?
Bannon attacked the Republicans running these congressional committees for choosing to investigate the Trump campaign and Russia. He said it was part of an "establishment" plan to try to "nullify" the election result. Gowdy challenged him on that, asking Bannon who is this establishment you refer to who is trying to nullify Trump's victory? Bannon answered: Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Gowdy countered that Bannon couldn't have it both ways.
Bannon has turned into a dog who remains loyal to Master even though Master keeps kicking him. Yet in all other respects, Bannon is anything but servile. The guy's a bombastic narcissist -- just like Trump, though better-read -- yet here he is, bent over and trying not to weep as he tells the school bully: "Thank you sir. May I please have another?"

Bannon's suggestion that Ryan and McConnell are trying to "nullify" Trump's victory is beyond absurd. Ryan and McConnell are, arguably, the biggest enablers in American history. They could have gotten rid of Trump ages ago, if they so desired.

Last night, Rachel Maddow offered a Theory of Bannon which didn't make a whole lot of sense. Watch the video above, and perhaps you'll agree with my reaction: This is one of the few occasions when I have to say: "Sorry, Rachel, but no sale." Yeah, it's worth noting that Lewandowsky's stonewalling bothered the Committee less than Bannon's stonewalling did. But I don't think that the Mueller subpoena explains much. Right now, I see no evidence that the Congressional investigations (if they can be called that) are working at cross purposes with the Mueller investigation.

In the hands of Robert Palmer -- who thinks that Bannon has "flipped" (in the legal sense, not the psycho sense) -- the Maddow theory went from questionable to absurd. (Palmer has his virtues, but his great failing is his optimism. I hate optimism.)
Rachel Maddow revealed on her MSNBC show on Wednesday evening that Mueller has officially signed off on Bannon continuing to use this attorney during his upcoming interview, despite the fact that he also represents two other Trump-Russia clients.

This means Mueller is certain that the attorney in question is not doing Trump’s bidding. Yet this is the same attorney who kept calling someone after each questions asked by the House Intel Committee yesterday, in order to find out whether it should be answered. Yet at no point did Bannon or his attorney say that “executive privilege” was being invoked, instead referring to it more generically as a “gag order.” Now that we know Mueller has 100% trust in Bannon’s attorney, it’s fairly safe to assume that the attorney was in fact calling Mueller’s people during the hearings, not Trump’s people.

In other words, Steve Bannon has flipped on Donald Trump.
The "Bannon has flipped" theory has been around for months, in one form or another. Palmer has let confirmation bias affect his better judgment. If Bannon has flipped, he would not have launched that ludicrous attack on Ryan and McConnell. Josh Marshall has it right: "That seems like a caution to anyone who thinks Bannon is going to go rogue on Trump just because Trump went to war with Bannon."

Bloomberg published a persuasive report that Bannon's silence came at the request of the White House, not Mueller.
Uttam Dhillon, the White House lawyer responsible for responding to congressional investigators in the Russia probe, made the executive privilege request to Bannon’s lawyer, William Burck, prior to Bannon’s appearance Tuesday before the House Intelligence Committee, said the person, who discussed the situation on the condition of anonymity.

Burck passed specific questions to the White House during the House panel interview, and was given instructions on when to respond and when not to, the person said.
“This was effectively a gag order by the White House preventing this witness from answering almost any question concerning his time in transition, in the administration, and many questions even after he left the administration,” Schiff said. “This obviously can’t stand. We expect to have Mr. Bannon back in, we hope very soon, with a different position by the White House.”
Unlike Maddow or Palmer, Schiff was there. Also see this AP report.

Face it: Trump, not Mueller, is the one who demanded omerta. And "executive privilege" really was the excuse given.

So what the hell is going on? Why is Steve Bannon so damned docile? When Bannon read Evola's "Let's return to feudalism" fantasies, Bannon no doubt imagined himself as a lord, not a serf. Yet right now, he seems to be saying: "Serf's up!"

Allow me to offer a theory so outrageous that it may not be discussed in polite society, even though it has the virtue of explaining nearly everything. This theory not only explains Bannon's behavior, it also explains why Ryan and McConnell won't toss Trump onto the garbage heap, why Ryan has decided not to seek re-election, why Lindsay Graham has become a different person, and why so many non-fascist Republicans have decided to enable the goosesteppers.

Trump is emulating Putin.

Simple as that.

How does Putin stay in power? His main weapon is kompromat, but on occasion, he also kills.

We know Trump by now. We know that Trump paid hush money to a porn star with whom he slept because she resembles his daughter. We know that Trump learned about politics from mob lawyer Roy Cohn. We know that Trump worships power. We know that he admired the decision to send tanks into Tiananmen Square. We know that Trump is a thug who believes This is how the world works. We know that Trump is a conspiracy theorist -- and we know that all right-wing conspiracy believers secretly long to be conspiracy practitioners.

Steve Bannon doesn't want to end up like Litvenenko. Simple as that. That's why a would-be Uebermensch has morphed into the dog who loves Master even after Master kicks him.

If this Theory of Bannon has any validity, then do not expect Steve Bannon to cooperate with Mueller. Bannon will dance and dodge, but he won't tell the full truth.

Why do Steve Bannon, Don McGahn and Reince Priebus have the same lawyer? Perhaps because the same sword hangs over all three.
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Comments:
What?
Don Trump gonna have Bannon sleep wid da fishes?
More like a cash infusion via a condo on Trump property sold at discount to Sloppy S who then turns it to a Russian for 200% over market.
 
Putin uses both carrot and stick. So too with Trump.
 
Legal consensus appears to be that executive privilege needs to be specifically invoked before Congress if it is to have any legal force. According to various lawyers it doesn't apply during a presidential transition period and it is unlikely the Supreme Court would see it that way. A "gag order" assertion is not sufficient. That could mean just a signed Trump confidentiality agreement having no legal force in criminal or Congressional proceedings. So the PR announcements from the WH and their lawyers on this issue are just BS.
 
Joe you were so right about the kompromat - Stormy must be yet another of his agents..

What a genius V Satanovich was to have foreseen her usefulness as well as Trump's victory. And now hes deploying it.

How will our democracy survive the scandal?

viowa
 
Could Bannon see the congressional committee as un-trustworthy?
Could he be saving what he has to say for Mueller?
Could he be cross with Trump but hate the Republicans more?
Not all these conjectures are mutually inclusive either.
BTW- Rachel likes to throw shit out there and see if it sticks. She is like you in that respect Joseph.

 
I think that you have been fooled by fake news.

The house committee asked Mueller if he was planning to interview Bannon and received no answer. This is something the committee does as a courtesy. Without an answer the committee went ahead and interviewed Bannon and while the interview was happening word of a grand jury subpoena got out. After that Bannon couldn't testify to the committee. It's as simple as that.
 


Russian intelligence will have files on every politician of any significance. Donald Trump blackmailing doctors and members of Congress is Russia blackmailing these individuals.

Donald Trump has no personal behavioral boundaries. He never has. He will do whatever is necessary. He is literally fighting for his life here.

Putin provides Donald guidance. The longer Trump reigns so will chaos. Shutting down the US government suits Putin's goals just fine.


 
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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, YOU ARE A PROVEN LIAR

Admiral Jackson wrote a report on Trump's health that was definitely not written in medical-ese. It reads as though Trump himself wrote it. The adjectives and the superlatives are surefire indicators of Trump's style.

Odd isn't it? All of Trump's doctors seem to write that way -- but only when writing about Trump. No other doctors write in that INCREDIBLE and TREMENDOUS fashion.

Jackson says that Trump is 6'3" even though he does not appear to be as tall as Barack Obama, who is 6'1".


And the reported weight of 239 pounds is ridiculous. Sports Illustrated has offered conclusive photographic proof that Jackson has signed his name to a lie.



Everyone knows that Trump got out of Vietnam by paying a doctor to come up with a fake "bone spur" diagnosis, which never stopped Trump from functioning (by his own report) as an athlete. Ever since, Trump has paid doctors to write pleasing fictions.

Why did Admiral Jackson make himself party to this lie? I don't know what sort of pressure, payment or blackmail was used on this man. I know only that he is lying. I'll call him a liar in public. I'll call him a liar to his face. I'll call him a liar in front of his family. I'll call him a liar in any court in this land. Jackson is a liar. I need no further proof beyond the photos reproduced above.

Jackson's lie ties in with a larger issue. Why did Lindsay Graham change his tune? Why do previously anti-Trump Republicans now defend him so assiduously? Why did those Republican senators morph their memories of the "shithole" remark -- but only after it became clear that the comment would hurt Trump more than it would help him?

Welcome to kompromat country.

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Comments:
Of course he lied. And Trump probably shopped around for one that would.
He has to keep the fantasy alive. In his fantasy, he is the healthiest, the smartest, the most capable, the most informed.
The rest of the GOP is using him before he expiration date which looks closer by the day.
The minute Trump expires which he will, all these people will grow a continuous.

 
A Rear Admiral who'd like a promotion and continue in his role of POTUS Doc rather than to be shuttled over to do autopsies?

A bunch of stinking politicians who've gotten the donor class message that Trump is what they want?

Pretty clear.

I agree with Margie, we're stuck with him until some ... uh, thing, uh, unthinkable happens, or is finally revealed, that causes his expiration date to be seen, suddenly, as immediately due.

At which time the Kochs and the Mercers will pick the least damaged scumbag to be the next shithole in chief.
 
The height is clearly the same as Obama. The weight, on the other hand, seems entirely plausible, remembering that Trump is probably as weak as a kitten due to his aversion to exercise, unlike those steroid abusers he's pictured with.
 
I saw snippets from Dr. Jackson’s press conference. As a gay man, I can say with near certainty that Jackson is gay. That’s probably your blackmail.
 
Anon, I dunno. I'm not convinced that gaydar is always accurate, and even if you're right, I'm not convinced that this is sufficient for blackmail in the modern world.
 
For any man who’s built his entire life on appearing straight, on being straight, it’s sufficient.

By the way, remember how Lindsey Graham’s emails were hacked and stolen a while back?
 
My mom had a saying, "Tall enough to eat soup off his head" used when my kid brother dated a girl who stood close to 6 feet.
At one time the Great White Dope could have been 6'3" but like me has lost it as the spine and joints compress with age. Being a hot house flower Trump could have been hunched due to the cold. As to any motive, naval brass like FBI agents are White Bread WASPs, remember all the leaks damaging to Hillary Clinton attributed to the New York office aka Trumpland.
 
I cannot recall (because I wasn't paying attention), but . . . how was St. Ronnie's annual physical handled? Though there was an intra-family argument over Ronald Reagan's fitness post-presidency between Ron and Michael Reagan, I distinctly remember others saying that Reagan was slipping into dementia in his second term.

Did he receive the same sort of glowing medical reports? Of course, any mention of Ronald Reagan's fitness at the time was considered a taboo subject. But still.

I think in the Trumpster's case, we need to believe our lying eyes and ears. Do I believe the report? No. But at least it removes the possibility of a medical excuse in any legal sense.

One other thing. Did I hear correctly? Did the good doctor take responsibility for the Trumpster's slurred speech? I haven't read anyone commenting on that. Or was that the Ambien usage that presumably affected The Donald's language?

Just one more chink in our national reputation. Even the doctors are falsifying their reports in service to the Mad King.

Ugh!

Peggysue
 
Let's watch him keep shoving Mac-cheeseburgers and KFC fake chicken down his gullet and see what happens.

NPR, for what it's worth, said the Doctor was also GWB's and Obama's Doctor.
 
Stephen Morgan, don't be too sure about Trump's height. first of all, there's the stupid hairpiece to account for, which clearly adds loft if not substance. Plus, he probably wears boosters.

Then there is the fact that after age 50 or so, men lose height ¼ to ½ inch per decade. That becomes noticeable after the late 60's. Just another losing battle for Donald.
 
Stephen Morgan, while I would agree with you, that still means the doctor lied (or signed his name to something he didn't write that was a blatant lie). The weight issue, I think you are probably also correct........those guys have a lot of muscle, which is heavy. I wouldn't be surprised if fat ass Trump does weigh the same as them, based on the fact that they are bulky with muscle and he is bulky with pure fat. In truth, we will never really know how much Trump weighs, as he would never allow the actual true number to be released in any fashion.
 
Btw, according to CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the numbers released on Trump's physical report indicate that the man has heart disease. Curious that the good doctor (Jackson} didn't mention that.

Or was he sending us a coded message: Help! I'm a prisoner. :o)

Peggysue
 
One thing to keep in mind. when using a golf cart, does the Trumpster literally ride from hole to hole, or does he park the Cart and actually walk a few paces to the hole? Why does it matter? Because if Trump is walking 50 feet to each for his tee shot, that is a total of 100 feet per hole, plus his putting on the same hole would mean another 50 feet to and 50 feet back to his cart. So per hole Trump may actually be walking 200 feet, times 18 holes is 3600 feet, which is around 7 tenths of a mile. While not a huge amount, add in the getting in and out of his cart 36 times per 18 holes and suddenly he actually has a minimal workout routine that is actually better than nothing.

And just adjust all those number a tiny bit in terms of distance and he could actually be reaching one mile of walking even while using a golf cart. And the getting in and out of the cart 36 times is significant as well.
 
The explanation about Trump vs Tom Brady both being around 6 foot three and 235 to 240 pounds tries to explain the difference in look by stating that Brady has denser muscle tone than Trump. I am not convinced that anyone is denser than Mr. Trump.
 
Allesandro, I seem to recall reading that he sometimes drives the cart up onto the green. He takes a keen interest in saving steps.

In further Trump health news:

Trump Health Exam:
President Still Taking Hair Loss Drug Even After Research Revealed It Causes Erectile Dysfunction and Depression


http://www.newsweek.com/trump-health-exam-president-hair-loss-drug-research-erectile-dysfunction-783580?amp=1&__twitter_impression=true
 
@Peggysue - Yes, I think Jackson may have been sending us a coded message. The idea that Trump could have lived to be 200 if only he hadn't spent decades stuffing shitty fast food down his cakehole struck me that way. (Perhaps he could have grown himself wings and flown through the air too?)

Jackson could be hedging his bets. If Trump sinks and goes down in history as an insane criminal whose team used blackmail and other thuggish and illegal methods to force officials to kowtow to his craziness, the "aged 200" reference could be used in an attempt to exonerate its utterer. "I just said what I had to, to protect my family, but I left a message to show what was going on".

Something similar has been done before. Recall the US military prisoner who, when forced to make a recorded statement by North Korea [*], deliberately mispronounced a common word without his captors realising. (I can't remember which word.) I suspect that the same motivation explains why (the civilian) Otto Warmbier repeatedly said "the DPR Korea", stressing the first syllable of the word "Korea", in his (terrifying) press conference last year.

That said, Jackson doesn't have a home country other than the US, so the parallel isn't exact. His message may be for the future.


(*) I have to add a note here to say that I do not believe that all statements made by US military prisoners in Korea during the Korean war of 1950-53 were the result of brainwashing. But this is by the by in the present context.
 
Tom,

Which is why I've been saying that Trump is on testosterone replacement therapy. And given his antics, an uncontrolled dosage.
 
Meanwhile...those who are interested in other cases involving the Kremlin and the far right should pay attention to current manipulations in Germany.

If there's a grand coalition ("Groko" - i.e. the social democrats join the Christian conservative CDU in government), then the largest opposition party in the German parliament becomes the far-right populist AfD.

It doesn't seem to me that Greece or whichever countries may leapfrog over it in the "failure" league will get bailed out next time - not if there's a Groko, not if there isn't; not if the AfD get the chairmanship of the Bundestag's budget committee, not if they don't.

Those next countries may include Britain. The principal aim of the British government in Brexit negotiations is to protect and advance the international financial interests that are concentrated in the City of London.

What might they sacrifice in order to protect those interests?

The rest of the country, that's what. There is a very serious danger that major problems will arise later this year with getting the harvest in. The Tory internet commentariat pooh-poohs the idea (while salivating at the thought of culling the lower orders, as Tories have done since Malthus) and opines that the free market will sort everything out. So farmers will attract the needed labour-power by raising wages? Those who believe that will believe anything. What will they do? Put up notices in job centres? And young workers from London and other British cities will rush to the fields? Or maybe they will give out free coach tickets in Poland? You wonder whether people who believe this crap have ever encountered a farmer.
 
Is Kevin Kühnert, leader of the SPD youth, nash?

For a man who finds himself in such a pivotal position in Germany and Europe at the moment, there seems to be remarkably little online about his background and how he got where he is.

The above should not be taken as support for a grand coalition. I'm anti-Groko and in favour of a "NO" vote at Sunday's SPD conference. That the conservative noblepersons Ursula von der Leyen and Thomas de Maizière - either of whom may soon replace Angela Merkel as the German chancellor - probably have similar wishes doesn't change my mind.

I am not espousing a "no united front" policy that was famously disastrous in the face of the rise of the Nazis. The CDU and their pals the Bavarian CSU are rightwing arseholes and they are not comparable to the SPD of the early 1930s. The neo-Nazis and the AfD would love the crystallisation of a CDU-SPD coalition. Fuck that. Hopes should focus on the anti-CDU left taking over the SPD and agreeing an electoral alliance with Die Linke. Do it right and they could win a plurality in the Bundestag. And get Jean-Luc Mélenchon onside!
 
Parade rain warning:

While I like the idea that morse code was being sent with blinking eyelids, probably not.

Old-line, often lower quality docs have had such patter as "live to be 200..." for I don't know how long. Sometimes it's simple reassurance and meant to reduce anxiety, sometimes obvious bs to cover butt, to relieve guilt, to appease a disgruntled person, or obviously, all of the above.

Especially when coupled with the "good genes" meme, it could be translated as: Through continuous sloth and gluttony, you're a fowled up mess, but you're not dead yet (which you should be, so relatively speaking), due to your really good genes, you're doing great. Simply mah-velous.

Of course, the advanced age cited used to be 100 or 110, so 200 does seem inflationary. Maybe a sign? Or a sign of disgust?
 
joseph, Heh, now we've got another reason to call him Mr. T.

This would fit Trump's razor (regarding Trump, the stupidest explanation is probably the right one).
 
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Do you have a Theory of Wendi?

Seriously, who the hell IS Wendi Deng? The Wall Street Journal -- owned by her former husband Rupert Murdoch -- has identified her as a possible Chinese spy. Okay, this piece doesn't actually say that, but the strong inference is there.

When she was married to Murdoch, Gawker published a piece claiming that she controlled him. And even that piece, published in 2008, portrays her as a serial manipulator of men.
Her ticket out of China came in 1987, when she met a Los Angeles couple, Jake and Joyce Cherry... Mrs. Cherry says she had grown increasingly suspicious about Ms. Deng's relationship with her husband. Mrs. Cherry recalls discovering a cache of photographs her husband had taken of Ms. Deng in coquettish poses back in his hotel room in Guangzhou. Mr. Cherry confirms he had become infatuated with the young woman...

The Cherrys divorced, and Jake Cherry married Ms.Deng in February 1990. But that union didn't last. Mr. Cherry says that about four months after the wedding, he told Ms. Deng to leave because she had started spending time with a man named David Wolf...

Former colleagues describe Ms. Deng as having been adept at juggling the interests of News Corp.'s various units, which like to operate independently... She is said to have shown no hesitation about walking unannounced into a senior executive's office to discuss the latest Chinese entrepreneur she had met or government official she had contacted...
That last bit seems particularly relevant in light of the new WSJ story.

It's said that her marriage to Murdoch came a-cropper when she hooked up with Tony Blair, who supposedly spent a weekend with her at the Murdochs' ranch in Carmel, California. Here is her love letter to "Tony"...
"Oh, shit, oh, shit," she wrote. "Whatever why I'm so so missing Tony. Because he is so so charming and his clothes are so good. He has such good body and he has really really good legs Butt . . . And he is slim tall and good skin. Pierce blue eyes which I love. Love his eyes. Also I love his power on the stage . . . and what else and what else and what else . . . "
Ah. Poetry. "Really really good legs Butt." Who says that romance is dead?

Vanity Fair reported an "unsubstantiated" story that Wendi and Vladimir Putin were "in love."
The two have yet to be spotted together in public, because that level of self-serving malevolence in one single frame would likely crumble the earth onto itself. But Us did report Deng was spotted earlier this week boarding the St. Barths–docked yacht of Russian businessman Roman Abramovich. After Putin’s election, the billionaire reportedly gifted him a $35 million yacht to add to his collection of playthings, according to the Daily Mail. This one degree of mega-yacht separation isn’t quite a confirmation, but it has to count for something, right?
And now she is tied in with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. In fact, she is said to have patched up the "Jarvanka" union at a time when a split seemed likely.

From the Washington Examiner:
But here’s an interesting (i.e. too funny to be true) wrinkle in the story: New York journalist Michael Wolff suggested this week that the idea that Wendi Deng Murdoch is a Chinese communist spy originates with her ex-husband.

"Since their divorce, Murdoch has been telling anybody who would listen that Wendi is a Chinese spy — and had been throughout the marriage," Wolff wrote in a tweet.
Maybe a resentment-filled ex made up the whole "Chinese spy" story. Or maybe Murdoch really was played.

If China controlled Wendi, and if Wendi controlled Murdoch, and if Murdoch controlled Fox News -- then should we conclude that Fox is a Chinese psychological warfare operation?

Okay, maybe that's a reach. Still, I'm persuaded that something very strange is going on with this woman. Just look at the number of ultra-important people in her orbit! And she's not that much of a wow. (Then again, neither was Gustav Mahler's wife Alma, yet half the male population of Europe wanted to sleep with her.)

Does anyone have a "Theory of Wendi"? Right now, I'll take anything. Blue-sky conjecture, irresponsible speculation, conspiratorial plots involving aliens, anything.
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Trump has found himself another kooky medic, Ronny Jackson, who writes "I told the president if he'd had better diet over the last 20 years he could have lived to 200 years old." The last one, Harold Bornstein, wrote that Trump's lab test results were "astonishingly excellent". This one writes that "he has incredibly good genes".

You wonder just how stupid the US citizenry can be taken for.

I have little respect for the medical "profession", but can't the AMA step in? Two of its members are talking what anyone without shit for brains can realise is utter rubbish.
 
Rupert did a lot of business in China over the yesrs, and often acted in ways that furthered Chinese interests, it seemed predictable, unremarkable. Except that the US kept letting him amass his media empire. But that's been the new normal for some while too.

As I read, Alma came to mind before you mentioned her. She certainly had high standards in husbands.

Wendi as Magnetic personality? Could be, but it's fun to think of the piratical Rupert getting played.
 
The rumours predate the divorce. They came up at the time of the custard pie thing. I believe it was suggested that she was part of the deal whereby Murdoch acquired media assets in China.
 
Tom, Alma may have high standards, but she didn't treat her husbands well. There's a bio of Franz Werfel you should look up; the way she treated him was horrendous. In truth, the way she treated Gustav was also pretty awful.

As much as I like Ken Russell, I'll never forgive the glowing portrayal of Alma in Russell's film about Mahler. I'm pretty much okay with the rest of it, even the thing with Cosima.
 
Joseph, I see I've got some more interesting historical reading to do, about Alma.

Have to wonder how large a role, as in the case of Paul Tillich, S&M played.
 
I have to say Wendi stepped in nicely and punched out a prankster going after hubby with a cream pie. I'll take a crisp rabbit punch over fidelity any time. (Although I'd find it difficult to overlook Blair, just as a matter of taste. That'd be like spending the weekend with Snooki and expecting all to be forgiven.)
 
Murdoch Fox TV Network aired documentary saying U.S. moon landing was a hoax but aliens are real. Fox News = Foreign Anti-American Psyop... And let's not forget the constant division the Fox network sponsors in USA since Aussie Rupert Murdoch took over.
 
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Is Bannon the Bomb?

Earlier today, Virginia Heffernan offered a mysterious tweet:
Tweeting tick tick tick tick is irresponsible, so I'm not doing it right now.
To which she later added this whimsical coda:
I wouldn't not untick today
In the twelve hours since these words appeared, nothing has happened to justify that ticking sound. So I presume that the bomb, if bomb there is, will go off tomorrow.

I think that the bomb has a name: Steve Bannon. He is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee today. Bannon is as vindictive and narcissistic as Trump -- and he's even nastier, since Trump, on his deepest level, wants love, while Steve Bannon long ago made Alberich's choice:
Das Licht lösch' ich euch aus,
entreisse dem Riff das Gold,
schmiede den rächende Ring;
denn hör' es die Flut:
so verfluch' ich die Liebe!
There is no way for Bannon to return to prominence unless Trump is brought to ruin. Polling reveals that Bannon is now wildly unpopular among Trump voters; the only way for Bannon to rise is for The Donald to fall.

A morose Bannon recently compared himself to Thomas Cromwell. I hope he decides to emulate Oliver Cromwell -- the one who signed his King's death warrant.

(I speak metaphorically, of course.)

What beans might Bannon spill? Well, last night's Rachel Maddow show added greatly to our knowledge of Trumpian money laundering, a subject about which Bannon seems to know a thing or two.

But I think that Bannon's main goal will be to destroy Jared Kushner. Remember this story from last June?
A GOP strategist named Rick Wilson tweeted Friday, “A little bird tells me that a certain White House staff member whose name rhymes with Beeve Stannon is crapping diamonds over Parscale.” Steve Bannon has every reason to be so nervous over Trump campaign digital director Brad Parscale being called to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, which is very interested in how Russian bots targeted political messages in critical swing states, and Parscale is the man to ask.

Parscale played a critical role in the Trump campaign, directing online spending and voter targeting. Parscale was in charge of a highly sophisticated data bank built and paid for by the Republican National Committee. More details on this story and how it could blow the Trump Russia investigation wide open from CNN:
House Russia investigators are planning to call on Brad Parscale, the digital director of President Donald Trump's campaign, as the congressional and federal probes dig into any possible connections between the Trump digital operation and Russian operatives, congressional sources said this week.

The House Russia investigation is planning to send an invite to Parscale soon, as they begin scheduling witnesses over the summer, sources said. The Senate intelligence committee is also interested in how Russian bots were able to target political messages in specific districts in critical swing states, although it is not clear if Parscale will be called before the Senate panel as well.

The news from the House comes as federal investigators have dug into Jared Kushner's role overseeing Trump's data operation -- although he has not been identified as a target of the probe. Kushner is expected to talk soon with Senate investigators about the campaign's data operation.
Bannon hates Kushner. Reawakening this scandal-within-the-scandal may be the best way to bring down that particular opponent.

Speaking of Jared, take a look at this Daily Beast piece...
And then there’s Cambridge Analytica. The data analytics firm rose to prominence during the 2016 Republican primaries. Its head, Alexander Nix, is close with Rebekah Mercer, who has funded Breitbart. Mercer partially owns Cambridge, and Bannon has worked closely with the company as well. A few months before the presidential election, Nix reached out to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and offered the firm’s services to help hackers organize and disburse emails that Hillary Clinton wiped from her hard drive. There’s no reason to believe Wikileaks ever received those emails, and Assange confirmed to The Daily Beast that he received an offer from Cambridge Analytica, which he subsequently rejected.

The House intelligence committee has zeroed in on the Kremlin’s efforts to persuade and misinform American voters using online targeting. This has made the Trump campaign’s data operation a key focal point for them. The fact that Bannon worked closely with Cambridge Analytica –– and that Jared Kushner also once boasted to Forbes about his role on the data front –– means the tech side of Trump World could also be a topic.
Both Mercer and Trump may live to regret their demonization of Steve Bannon.

Am I engaging in wishful thinking? Probably. Bannon may be planning to stonewall the committee; Trump may have secretly sent word that all will soon be forgiven. But right now, I will smile at the possibility that Hell hath no fury like a Bannon scorned.
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Comments:
You are not engaging in wishful thinking as Bannon has been subpoenaed by Mueller. He was also subpoenaed during his House testimony as he was stonewalling.

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/01/16/us/politics/steve-bannon-mueller-russia-subpoena.html?referer=https://www.google.com/

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/16/steve-bannon-congress-testimony-subpoena-341492

Jesus, can we lock everyone up yet?
 
In my view criminal proceedings and jail sentences are far from certain here. If the Republicans are forced by public pressure into impeachment proceedings then they may well seek to distance themselves from the political fallout by insisting as the price of their cooperation that criminal charges against Trump and associates be waived. "Need for the nation to move on," and all that. Never underestimate the ability of the GOP to ratfuck the country.
 
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Monday, January 15, 2018

Missile alert: The case for paranoia

Hawaiians received the ultimate scare and we still do not have a satisfactory explanation as to exactly what happened. From the WP:
Around 8:05 a.m., the Hawaii emergency employee initiated the internal test, according to a timeline released by the state. From a drop-down menu on a computer program, he saw two options: “Test missile alert” and “Missile alert.” He was supposed to choose the former; as much of the world now knows, he chose the latter, an initiation of a real-life missile alert.

“In this case, the operator selected the wrong menu option,” HEMA spokesman Richard Rapoza told The Washington Post on Sunday.

Around 8:07 a.m., an errant alert went out to scores of Hawaii residents and tourists on their cellphones: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” A more detailed message scrolled across television screens in Hawaii, suggesting, “If you are indoors, stay indoors. If you are outdoors, seek immediate shelter in a building. Remain indoors well away from windows. If you are driving, pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter in a building or lay on the floor.”
Question: Why did that message scroll across television screens in the absence of the familiar Emergency Broadcast System attention signal?
Part of what worsened the situation Saturday was that there was no system in place at the state emergency agency for correcting the error, Rapoza said. The state agency had standing permission through FEMA to use civil warning systems to send out the missile alert — but not to send out a subsequent false alarm alert, he said.
A "false alarm" message was sent, 38 minutes later. Why could it not have been sent earlier?

Call me irresponsible if you must, but I cannot easily believe what we're being told. An employee mistake? Sure, that part is credible enough -- but who in his right mind would design such a system? Who would put "Test missile alert" and "Missile alert" right next to each other on the same screen? The choice of "Missile alert" should have triggered a flashing red light and a brief confirmation dialogue box: Is this an actual real-world emergency?

Hawaiian authorities have assured us that the incident resulted from human error, and that no outside actors were involved. Perhaps that statement is true in this case. Nevertheless, there is no denying that, in the past, the government has lied about errors and accidents involving nuclear weapons.

Here is a list of 32 "Broken Arrow" events involving nuclear weapons. Many of these incidents remain mysterious. Here is a longer list of accidents involving nuclear materials (both here and elsewhere, including but not limited to weaponry). In most cases, the public was kept in the dark.

Special attention should go to the 1980 "Silo 7" incident in Arkansas. On that occasion, an accident involving a dropped socket wrench almost resulted in the deaths of millions. From a 2016 Salon article:
It’s not entirely fair to say that the near-catastrophe of 1980 was covered up. But Americans were not even remotely told the truth about how close we came to nuclear Armageddon in the heartland. In fact, when Mondale demanded to know whether the Damascus missile was armed with a nuclear warhead, the military initially refused to tell him. “In my book, I have a quote from someone who was in the room,” said author Eric Schlosser during a recent video interview in Salon’s New York office. “Mondale said, ‘Goddamn it, I’m the vice president of the United States! You should be able to tell me if there’s a nuclear warhead on this missile or not. Eventually they did.”
Question 1: If the nuclear authorities in Hawaii hid the truth about that false alert, would Trump and Pence even know?

Question 2: Is it truly so outlandish to ask if hackers gained access to the computer which flashed that emergency alert message?

Question 3: If hackers can tamper with the computers controlling our energy grid, why should we presume that that particular computer in Hawaii was beyond their reach?

Tampering with the grid has already occurred. From Wired, last September:
Security firm Symantec is warning that a series of recent hacker attacks not only compromised energy companies in the US and Europe but also resulted in the intruders gaining hands-on access to power grid operations—enough control that they could have induced blackouts on American soil at will.

Symantec on Wednesday revealed a new campaign of attacks by a group it is calling Dragonfly 2.0, which it says targeted dozens of energy companies in the spring and summer of this year. In more than 20 cases, Symantec says the hackers successfully gained access to the target companies’ networks. And at a handful of US power firms and at least one company in Turkey—none of which Symantec will name—their forensic analysis found that the hackers obtained what they call operational access: control of the interfaces power company engineers use to send actual commands to equipment like circuit breakers, giving them the ability to stop the flow of electricity into US homes and businesses.
Security firms like FireEye and Dragos have pinned those Ukrainian attacks on a hacker group known as Sandworm, believed to be based in Russia. But Symantec stopped short of blaming the more recent attacks on any country or even trying to explain the hackers' motives. Chien says the company has found no connections between Sandworm and the intrusions it has tracked. Nor has it directly connected the Dragonfly 2.0 campaign to the string of hacker intrusions at US power companies—including a Kansas nuclear facility—known as Palmetto Fusion, which unnamed officials revealed in July and later tied to Russia.
Yes, Sandworm was named after the monsters in Dune.

You may also want to contemplate this lovely story from last July:
Nuclear and other energy providers have been advised by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI that hackers may be trying to breach their computer systems.

DHS said in a statement Friday that there is no threat to public safety. The agency said hackers appear to have tried to breach the business and administrative networks of the facilities. DHS did not identify the facilities.
Obviously, there is a vast difference between a nuclear energy facility and a computer system which sends out emergency alerts to the public. But from a technical point of view -- from a hacker's point of view -- is the difference really so vast?

The Drive -- a website devoted to cars and aviation -- veered into frightening territory last night when it published an article memorably titled "Get Ready For More False Alerts Stating That You Are About To Die." The author, Tyler Rogoway, is not a crank or a conspiracy theorist. His Twitter bio states that he is "Currently editor of Time Inc's The War Zone."

I hope that Mr. Rogoway won't mind extensive quotation of his work...
Shockwaves from this huge mistake are likely to ripple outward for months, but for now it serves as a stark reminder that false information and its relation to our smartphones doesn't just stop at "fake news" on Facebook.

America's enemies understand this very well and are very likely to take advantages in weaknesses in America's mobile networks to inject fear, mistrust, and confusion into the populace in the future. These are the lynchpins of Russia's "hybrid warfare" playbook and their campaign to affect America's political process during the 2016 election also sticks to these underlying tenets. Smartphones in particular are a ripe target for foreign actors, and especially Russia. American troops operating in Eastern Europe during recent military exercises had their smartphones repeatedly broken into and jammed with all sorts outcomes being witnessed. Other allied troops had constant messages sent to their phones.

The War Zone reported recently:
These reports match up almost word for word with information the Asymmetric Warfare Group collected regarding the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The unit explained in its December 2016 handbook on Russian New Generation Warfare that the hybrid strategy had effectively blended electronic and cyber warfare with psychological operations to disrupt Ukrainian military activities.

“Electronic warfare devices allow Russian Forces to broadcast … messages directly against opposing Ukrainian forces as discussed earlier with cellular text messages,” the manual explained. “These can be very specific and directed at individuals, such as by threatening their wives and children by name, or generic and sent to entire units as was the case in Ukraine.”
More than twenty years ago, the U.S. Army War College was abuzz with similar ideas, which were then called the Revolution in Military Affairs. What we proposed, others have put into practice.
What's most concerning is that there have been countless examples in recent years of emergency broadcasting systems being hijacked or hacked by entities with nowhere near the power or the sophistication of a peer-state opponent or even a major international non-state actor. Many vectors exist for these attacks, and thankfully they have mainly been pranks, such as alerting certain regions to a potential zombie virus outbreak or the end of the world. Even setting off air raid sirens for hours at a time in a major metropolitan area has occurred. But the risk of far more harmful operations executed by international actors remains.
And that's really what's at stake here—the public's trust in their government's ability to accurately communicate with them when it matters most. Considering these systems are how the President is suppose to address the nation during a major emergency situation (not just video or audio, but even using texts!), if the zombie alerts or false missile attacks can pop up at any given time, what's to say that what they are even hearing from President is real?

And this is why undermining American's emergency broadcasting capabilities will be an increasingly attractive target to enemy states and actors—by breaking the public's faith in this most basic form of communication, it helps erode their greater confidence in their government as a whole.
And now, a word from Little Alex: Naturally, Alex Jones wants you to believe that the Hawaiian false alert was just another Clinton conspiracy designed to embarrass Trump. Apparently, the Clintons control the emergency alert system in Hawaii.

Seems to me that this incident would have improved Trump's image, if he had behaved responsibly. Trump could have tweeted a message re-assuring the populace; instead, he went on a Twitter tirade against a personal enemy. Worse, Trump initiated a golf game after the false alarm was flashed but before the "All Clear" message had officially gone out. Any other president would have canceled the game to go before the cameras.

All he needed to do was to look and sound presidential, but he couldn't manage even that. Trump has no-one to blame but himself.
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"Who would put "Test missile alert" and "Missile alert" right next to each other on the same screen?"

Worse. They were two options next to each other on a DROP-DOWN MENU. Just consider how many times you've clicked the wrong item on a drop-down menu (or a right-click menu)?
 
How much did republicans pay for a "mistake" that took the heat off the Great White Dope however briefly?
 
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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Alex Jones' crowning achievement



What a classic performance! I am reminded of the great Burt Lahr, with additional touches inspired by both Curly and Shemp, and perhaps a little Belushi. Having come in late to this party, I must ask: Why does Alex Jones think that Brian Stelter of CNN is the man who controls all the banks? And why does an alleged "Christian" sound exactly every movie demon you've ever heard?

Theater people, take note: I have a sure-fire project for you. "Alex Jones -- The Musical." Seriously, I can see it on Broadway. It'll make millions. And I've already provided you with one number. It's yours, gratis!
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This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
I've been making, and keeping, a policy of never listening to Alex Jones. So, not sure I'll break my policy for this one or not.

I'll read almost anyone, but the hard crazy they're selling is increasingly dangerous. And you're right to wonder about the demon voice that Jones manufactures.

Oh well...

 
"All the narcissistic devil-worshipping filth"? Is he anti-narcissist now, or is Mr Jones trying to tell us something?
 
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The Donald Trump drinking game

Someone online proposed a new drinking game. The game has one simple rule: Take a shot of vodka every time a new Trump scandal arises.

I don't drink often, but I thought I'd give this game a try. After a mere 36 hours of Trump-watching, I put on a pair of mismatched shoes and tried to lie down on the ceiling. Unfortunately, sleep was impossible because the cat kept delivering messages from Odin.

(Did I tell you we have a cat in the house now? I'm not a cat person.)

A week of this game will surely result in cirrhosis. Trump's accomplishment deserves our deepest respect: No other figure in political history has crammed so many major scandals into such a small amount of time. Let's hit as many points as we can...

O'Keefe. Trump tried to hire James O'Keefe to steal Obama's records at Columbia University. Frankly, I'd like to see those records myself; as longtime readers know, I have expressed my own eldritch suspicions about Mr. O's school days. But I want to see those records legally. Trump, it seems, is not so picky...
O'Keefe wrote that during the 2013 meeting Trump suggested O'Keefe infiltrate Columbia and obtain the sealed records: "'Nobody else can get this information,'" O'Keefe quoted Trump as saying. "'Do you think you could get inside Columbia?'"

O'Keefe said he explained to Trump that the request did not fall into his "line of work," and that he considered himself and his colleagues to be journalists, not "private eyes."

But that didn't seem to deter Trump. At the end of the meeting, O'Keefe wrote, "Trump shook my hand, encouraged me to keep up the good work, and half-whispered, 'Do Columbia.'"
As you probably know (and as Trump probably did not know), solicitation to commit a crime is itself a crime. Let's look at the legal definition of "solicitation," courtesy of USLegal.com:
The crime of criminal solicitation is the actual soliciting, or seeking to engage another to commit a crime, not the subsequent commission of a crime. Therefore, a defendant can be convicted of soliciting, even though the person refuses and the solicited crime is never perpetrated, as long as the intent that that crime be committed is present.
Right now, you're probably thinking: Is that it? Have we finally got him? Sorry, but...
A person may not be convicted of criminal solicitation upon the uncorroborated testimony of the person allegedly solicited, and there must be proof of circumstances corroborating both the solicitation and the defendant's intent.
Do we have corroboration? Well...yes and no, but mostly no. Let's go back to the above-linked story about O'Keefe...
In the book, O'Keefe writes that the meeting was arranged by Republican political operative Sam Nunberg. Reached by phone, Nunberg recalled the meeting and confirmed he set it up. He said Trump was impressed with O'Keefe's work and, among other things, the number of retweets O'Keefe would get on Twitter.

Nunberg stressed repeatedly that he did not believe during the meeting that Trump was asking O'Keefe to "commit a crime."

"I recall that the Columbia records were brought up," Nunberg told CNN. "I in no way recall Trump asking James to do something illegal. ... He did not ask him to go in there and break in and get the records."

Nunberg added, "Trump was saying something along the lines of, 'Try to find somebody you can talk to that's saying we are hiding the records.' Something along those lines."
Uhhh...Mr. Nunberg? That last bit doesn't make any sense. You do realize that, don't you?

Methinks that Nunberg is offering a strained interpretation of events because Nunberg understands what solicitation is. Trump doesn't.

At any rate, what O'Keefe has revealed is still an impeachable offense. The phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors" is not restricted to violations of the U.S. Code. Imagine how Newt Gingrich would have reacted if Bill Clinton had whispered "Do Columbia." The initial stages of impeachment proceedings would be underway within a week.

Wouldn't it be delightful if James Fucking O'Keefe blurted out information that led to Trump's political demise?

The new sex scandal. The idea of Trump's lawyer offering a sizable (but not overwhelmingly generous) amount of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels does not surprise or shock many people. Trump is Trump. Daniels denies the charge -- but then again, that denial would be the whole point of the pay-out, n'est-ce pas? Her friend Alana Evans confirms the charge, which first appeared in the Wall Street Journal. A number of other indicators tell us that the WSJ's report is more credible than Stormy's denial.

Some are arguing that this story proves that Trump is indeed susceptible to sexual blackmail. Not really: Offering hush money is not the same thing as receiving a blackmail threat.

My big question: Why did this story appear in the WSJ? That's a very pro-Trump periodical. How did they get the story?

Some speculate that a sex scandal, whether real or concocted, serves the purpose of diverting the country from the "shithole" debacle. Maybe the Journal was actually trying to help Trump.

Denial. Will anyone buy Trump's denial that he made the "shithole" slur? If he didn't use that term, then why didn't the other Republicans in the room rush the nearest camera to announce "He didn't say it"? I understand that, after a long period of confused silence, they eventually made half-hearted "I do not recall..." statements. Not the same thing.

Moby. Here's an odd story: Musician Moby says that he has hobnobbed with CIA friends who have declared Trump a "Manchurian Candidate."
“Yeah, so years of touring and spending time in DC and New York, I’ve managed to make a few friends in the intelligence community. And I guess this is about a year ago, we were having dinner and they were really concerned — partially based, not to go too much into the weeds — this Fusion GPS report on Trump essentially being run as a Russian agent. And these are some active and former CIA agents who … they’re truly concerned,” Moby explained.

“They were like, ‘This is the Manchurian Candidate, like [Putin] has a Russian agent as the President of the United States,’ and so they passed on some information to me and they said like, ‘Look, you have more of a social media following than any of us do, can you please post some of these things just in a way that … sort of puts it out there.'”
Hard to know what to make of this. Some people falsely claim to be CIA -- and some within the CIA don't tell the truth, or (more commonly) may present opinion as fact.

Funny money. Remember the first few times Trump denied having "anything to do with Russia"? Originally, he felt compelled to add that maybe there may have been Russians who bought units in his buildings. "I dunno." I distinctly recall him adding the words "I dunno."

Well, turns out that the issue is far more important than most of us understood. Why? Because those units were purchased cash -- by shell companies. Moreover, the sales add up to $1.5 billion dollars -- which is, by any standard, a hell of a lot of money.

So we can't let Trump minimize the issue: If Russians bought units in Trump buildings, that's pretty freakin' important. Do not overlook this important Buzzfeed report on Trumpian money laundering.
But a months-long BuzzFeed News examination of every Trump condominium sale in the US shows that such sales surged in the late 2000s and early 2010s, when some Trump businesses were in financial trouble and when Donald Trump Jr. made his now-famous remark about the Trump Organization seeing “a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Eighty-seven "electronic devices." This comes from Palmer, whose ultimate source seems to be Rachel Maddow. (I haven't yet seen last night's show.)
It was Rachael Maddow who discovered that in Mueller’s latest court filings in the case against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, the Mueller team is now disclosing possession of eighty-seven electronic devices, as opposed to just thirty-six such devices a month ago. That means that in the past month, Mueller and his team have somehow come into possession of an additional fifty-plus laptops and cellphones from Trump’s people. Here’s what that means in terms of prosecution and the overall investigation.

If Trump’s people were their usual sloppy selves, it’s unlikely that they wiped (or sufficiently wiped) any of the devices they had been using. This means Mueller would have access to every word processing document they typed, and perhaps access to personal email accounts that were being used on those laptops. The cellphones would not provide recordings of transition team phone conversations, but would have call histories, and potentially copies of voicemails.
Trump himself is wary of email and text messaging, but those around him are more likely to fall into various digital traps.

Bottom line: I bet they're all emitting bricks through their, er, shitholes.

I'm surprised that the Trumpers haven't yet blown up a Trump Tower or staged some similar piece of theater in order to divert us from the Russia scandal. Way I see it, they have little choice but to hit us with something big and dramatic.

Russians are hacking the Senate. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Collusion has been proven beyond reasonable debate. Why do I keep saying that? In part, because Donald Trump has done nothing -- absolutely nothing -- to prevent further Russian intrusions into our political system.

If a security guard plays Bejeweled while thieves carry dozens of Monets and Cezannes out the front door, we may fairly accuse that guard of collusion.

Trend Micro has published an important, detailed report on a Russian hacking group called Pawn Storm. Here's just a sample.
Pawn Storm has been attacking political organizations in France, Germany, Montenegro, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States since 2015. We saw attacks against political organizations again in the second half of 2017. These attacks don’t show much technical innovation over time, but they are well prepared, persistent, and often hard to defend against. Pawn Storm has a large toolset full of social engineering tricks, malware and exploits, and therefore doesn’t need much innovation apart from occasionally using their own zero-days and quickly abusing software vulnerabilities shortly after a security patch is released.

In summer and fall of 2017, we observed Pawn Storm targeting several organizations with credential phishing and spear phishing attacks. Pawn Storm’s modus operandi is quite consistent over the years, with some of their technical tricks being used repeatedly. For example, tabnabbing was used against Yahoo! users in August and September 2017 in US politically themed email. The method, which we first discussed in 2014, involves changing a browser tab to point to a phishing site after distracting the target.
Beginning in June 2017, phishing sites were set up mimicking the ADFS (Active Directory Federation Services) of the U.S. Senate. By looking at the digital fingerprints of these phishing sites and comparing them with a large data set that spans almost five years, we can uniquely relate them to a couple of Pawn Storm incidents in 2016 and 2017. The real ADFS server of the U.S. Senate is not reachable on the open internet, however phishing of users’ credentials on an ADFS server that is behind a firewall still makes sense. In case an actor already has a foothold in an organization after compromising one user account, credential phishing could help him get closer to high profile users of interest.
I'm still not quite sure how that works, but I'll take Trend Micro's word for it.

Finally...

Is Steve Bannon cooperating with Mueller? Variations of this argument have popped up on various sites, and even on Keith Olbermann's Twitter feed.
Steve Bannon has hired Bill Burke as his attorney (link). Burke is also the attorney for Reince Priebus and Don McGahn. By definition, the same attorney can only represent multiple clients in the same criminal investigation if the interests of those clients are perfectly aligned without any potential for conflict. Priebus has already given Mueller his personal notes about Trump’s obstruction of justice, meaning he’s a cooperating witness. That means, by definition, that McGahn and Bannon are both cooperating witnesses.

It’s not at all surprising that Steve Bannon, with nothing left to lose and a huge axe to grind against Donald Trump, would quickly run into the arms of Trump-Russia investigators.
I'm not entirely convinced by this argument. On the other hand, it's starting to look as though the only way for Bannon to make a comeback is for Trump to go down in flames. It is fair to posit that those electronic devices in Mueller's possession contain communications by and from Steve Bannon.

And that's not all folks. This post touches on only about half of the stories published during the past 36 hours that might have prompted players of the Donald Trump drinking game to pour out a finger of vodka. I'm starting to think that Putin made Trump president to increase vodka sales.

Each and every one of these scandals would have destroyed a Democratic presidency.
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i am starting to think trumpf is in reality a russian agent and his goal is to reduce america's standing in the world community to the point that no other country will want anything to do with us, freeing up putin to step in and fill the void.
 
"Hard to know what to make of this. Some people falsely claim to be CIA -- and some within the CIA don't tell the truth, or (more commonly) may present opinion as fact."

Sounds like a certain ex-CIA agent that gets talked about around here quite frequently by the name of John Schindler. I've always thought this is his schtick. Not that he's a double agent but that he's got a massive ego.

 
Ohhh. I tried that dringame. Game.

It's noon. The next day and I need aspirin.

It wasn't a good idea.
 
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Friday, January 12, 2018

"Shithole"

You probably already know about Trump's recent loutporing of racist remarks. The kindest interpretation is that he spoke in this fashion thoughtlessly, although some believe that he used racist terminology in order to give his dunderheaded supporters a thrill.

Perhaps he did. A horrifying thought, that.

The WP has defended its use of the word "shithole" without cute equivocations -- in fact, the word appeared in the headline.

Question: How will the media cover the story if we finally see those long-rumored tapes of Trump using the word "nigger" while filming The Apprentice? Will the WP put that word in the headline?

Even if we don't see this fabled footage, we may face a similar issue upon the release of Omarosa's forthcoming book. She has already given us a clue as to what to expect:
I have seen things that made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people.
That statement, which can be interpreted more than one way, conjures up the possibility that she will confirm the reports that Trump uses the worst word in our language.

Another question: How would Trump's defenders react if we receive either proof or a credible first-hand report of Trump's usage of that word?

I imagine that Republicans on cable news will probably rely on the adjective "unfortunate," as in "his unfortunate choice of language." Someone will probably offer an etymological analysis to convince us that the word really isn't that bad. A few Trumpers will probably haul out the hoary "black people use that word too" argument.

Some may try to excuse Trump's usage of the term by claiming that everyone used it in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. Those of us who were alive during those decades can tell you that this is not true -- at least not where I grew up (in Los Angeles County). Even in my earliest memories, that word was considered more transgressive than any other. None of the other boys I knew -- even the ones brave enough to say "fuck" -- dared to use the word "nigger."

(I can recall one exception to this general rule. I may tell that story one day, if I have not done so already.)

Unfortunately, today's younger people seem to have a very skewed impression of how our culture worked back then. Some condescending twenty-somethings believe that every white person spent the 1960s and 1970s comparing embroidery patterns on their Klan robes.

Very soon now, newspaper editors may have to decide whether or not they will print that word in connection with Donald Trump. I think that he has indeed used the word, and that he may even have been foolish enough to say the unsayable while the cameras were running. Trump is Trump. He is the Monster of the Id. He cannot stop himself from giving voice to every single thought that enters his cranium, however ridiculous or ugly that thought might be.

A word about my own policy: I will publish the word "nigger" in full only when absolutely necessary -- for example, when quoting a public figure. I would also print that word when discussing its usage and history as a word. Euphemisms such as "the N-word" or "the F-word" seem childish.
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Ten bucks says that Sarah Huckabee Sanders will claim that this is all fake news: that DJT was merely name-checking Ndabaningi Sithole, founder of the Zimbabwe African National Union. And that the Senators with hearing aids misunderstood. And that WaPo should be investigated by the Justice Department for defamation.
 
during the 1960's while i was one of three white people in a school of 600, there was a kid who would call me "cracker." my immediate reply was to call him that word, as at the time my upbringing was such. one day he caught me going back into classroom and halfway through the door, i blurted out the word. teacher was not happy, let me tell you. the next month while playing on giant 8-10 foot tires in playground, i was sort of pushed off and someone grabbed my legs as i was going down. ended up with a bloody nose and a broken wrist right before my birthday. would never do something like that again, especially after my mother started dating a black man and we lived in some of the local ghettos. taught me a valuable lesson that a hell of a lot of americans need to have blasted into their skulls.
 
Lennon and Yoko used it in a song, "Woman is the nigger of the world" in the mid-70's. They performed it on national television (Dick Van Dyke show). That said, me and my friends growing up the 80's didn't use it at all (but we did say "fuck", "shit", etc. when our parents weren't around).

Still, Trump having used it seems to me like a foregone conclusion. Finding actual proof that he did may be trickier, unless as you say, it was on camera and the recordings were not completely destroyed.
 
The Hartford Courant - "oldest continuously published newspaper in US" - had the word 'shithole' on the front page. Above the fold, even. Should have been a big hit in the classroom. How I long for the days of tan suits!
 
I've watched video clips - ones that don't focus on the usage of the N-word - in which men from poor neighbourhoods in US cities use the word between themselves as a greeting. You could imagine it being replaced by "man" or "mate". (I haven't seen it used either by or to a woman.)

This seems to be a custom in some parts of US society regardless of the skin colour of either the man using the word or the man he is addressing. So a white guy might use it to another white guy, or a black guy to a white guy, or a black man might use it to a white man or a black man. In at least three of these four circumstances the usage cannot be intended to express "racial" identity or pride.

I just mention this. It's possible I use the word "white" differently from how it is usually used in the "race"-obsessed US. Perhaps the men in the clips who I would call "white" are in fact identified by both themselves and the other guy as "non-white". On the other hand, perhaps that is not the case. I suspect it isn't the case, but I've never been to the US and I don't even know whether I myself would mostly be regarded in that country as "white" or "non-white".

I suspect there is at least some usage of the word in the US, on the "street", which principally concerns class [*] and which neither the racist right nor the liberal left would feel comfortable addressing.


(*) Or shithole pride?
 
I find it offensive whenever anyone uses a word that I am not supposed to repeat. In the future please use the N word to refer to the N word. Otherwise you are no different than Trump's twitter to Kim Jong Un when he said he would "never refer to Kim Jong Un as short and fat even though he is"

Even explaining why it is offensive causes me to bring up another Trump comment.
 
The shi___le comment is not necessarily racist because Trump is referring to the economic State of the Country and possibly the high incidence of certain medical conditions. Trump wants healthy future americans who are not dirt poor coming to the U.S.
 
I agree that calling poor countries "shitholes" isn't necessarily racist. The characterisation is accurate: except in a few gated residential areas, financial districts (if any), a tiny number of casinos and elite nightclubs, and maybe a flash shopping mall in the capital city, they are shitholes.

It would be so good if one of these days the left put some thought into responding to such remarks from Trump, rather than reacting in exactly the way the Pepe the Frog camp wants. Calling poor countries "shitholes" is not "white supremacist". This time it should be simple. Trump's remark says the poor (outside the US) can fuck off. That's exactly the attitude of libertarians and Republicans to the poor inside the US too, who also live in shitholes. "America first" is bullshit. Nationalism is bullshit.

Mark this one up as another propaganda success for the Trump team.
 
@Gus

Dick Cavett Show
 
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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Is there a "real" tape of Trump and a child?

Trump's relentless attacks on Hillary Clinton buttress my contention that Republican ratfuckers, aided by Russian trolls, will soon take the heat off the president by mounting a smear campaign against the Clintons and other Democrats. In a previous post, I posited that the smear will concern false charges of pedophilia.

Of course, Trump has gotten far by accusing others of his own sins. In this light, it may be of interest to take a look at the latest wild, outlandish, seemingly-laughable accusation leveled by Louise Mensch.

Yeah, yeah, I know: She isn't credible. Although I took her seriously at first, in more recent months this blog has shown her little mercy. Some have flirted with the theory that she is secretly working for Team Trump. Consider her links to Milo, to Murdoch, and to British intelligence. Consider her unforgivable pre-election attacks on Hillary. Consider the many occasions when Mensch was just plain wrong.

(Yes, I still think she's very attractive. Of course, I have a history of being drawn to females no sane man would trust.)

Have I offered enough caveats? Very well. Let's get to the outlandish stuff.

Lately, Mensch has claimed that the "pee-pee" tape doesn't exist, and that the Russians are holding a real tape over Trump -- a tape which is much worse.

"How much worse...?" asked a reader. Mensch's response:
So much worse. The FSB plants recorded in the #SteeleDossier discuss a consensual, gross act between adults.

The real tape(s) feature Trump himself sexually abusing a trafficked and underage girl.

Of course they want you to talk nonexistent "pee-pee".
Do I take this claim seriously? To be honest, I'm not sure how to take it.

The dossier does say (without offering details) that Trump was sexually compromised in St. Petersburg, separately from the Ritz Carlton episode in Moscow. I've long wondered: If the accusation in the dossier is valid, what would be the exact nature of the offense? It's no secret that Trump has used the services of hookers; this claim has appeared in many publications without any libel suit threats. It's also no secret that Trump has never been faithful to his wives.

So what could have happened in St. Petersburg that would offer an opportunity for really juicy kompromat?

Everyone knows that the Russian mob runs prostitutes. We know that these mobsters -- all of whom have links to Putin -- have used underaged women to control businessmen and politicians.

It's not easy to believe that Donald Trump would have intentionally sought to sleep with a girl beneath the age of consent. The man likes curves; he has made his tastes very clear. I am not one of those conspiracy theorists who believes that every powerful person longs to rape a child.

That said, it's easy to conceive of an entrapment situation. Puberty hits early these days, and there are 15 year-olds who could pass for 20.

Not only that. Virginia Roberts says that Jeffrey Epstein used young women (some of them underaged) to attain blackmail over important people. Trump used to be in Epstein's orbit.

So, is it possible that Louise Mensch's latest outlandish claim might actually have a basis in fact? Usually, I am either chary or dismissive of her claims. But in this case...well, let's just say I'm pondering.

Her main source, it would seem, is John Schindler, another untrustworthy source. In fact, I actively dislike the guy.

Let's take a look at Mensch's words further on in this thread. Asked if the tape will ever come out, Mensch says:
I don't know. @20committee has reported on and confirmed that one Western intelligence agency that he knows of has verified one real tape. Another senior source linked to UK intelligence told me that Australia has a second tape in addition to the one John Schindler reported.
A judge will see them.
Plural
Rape of a child is itself a violent act, but he is additionally savage to a girl who is clearly and visibly prepubescent. @putinrf would be well advised to cut bait. This whole thing is going wrong for him. @deripaskaoleg et al know
Pre-pubescent? Now we're getting into an area that I find difficult to believe. As noted earlier: Trump likes curves.

Almost inevitably, one of Mensch's reader's brings us into the realm of Grand Guignol:
Does the child make it out alive? Because I have read there's a tape showing horrific acts where the child does not make it.I don't think these tapes should be made public,no way,but the public should be informed and given a general idea of the level of "horribleness" involved.
Louise Mensch's response:
Be careful. I know what you are referring to and that’s deza. FBI don’t gossip in chatrooms. They know what a joke Tor is
Apparently, this is a reference to some rather outrageous tales being told on the dark web. If I understand aright, the allegation is that someone claiming to be FBI has hopped onto a dark web site in order to accuse Trump of murdering a child. But how would Louise Mensch know about all of this? Is she a dark web explorer? How would she know that the story is disinformation? 

(The allegation that the FBI considers Tor a "joke" could be the topic of a whole 'nother post. For the purposes of this post, go here and then go here. From there, you're on your own.)

Although it's a little hard for me to be sure, Louise seems to be implying that the FBI, or some other American agency, has gained access to these incriminating video recordings. If anyone from the FBI possessed any actual proof that Trump has abused children, why haven't we seen that proof? Any American citizen -- or British citizen -- who has witnessed such a video without informing the public would be complicit in the crime.

We began with the theory that the FSB used prostitutes -- perhaps young prostitutes -- to entrap an unwary Trump. This scenario makes some sense to me. Is it likely? Is it proven? No. I'm merely saying that the narrative seems, on its face, to be plausible. It is within the realm of the thinkable.

But that scenario has quickly morphed into something far more outrageous, and far less credible.

If any of my readers knows more about the wild claims being made on the dark web, I am all attention.
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Louise Mensch is mentally ill.
 
They may be floating the more grotesque scenario (murder of young girl) to disprove that .....and then not have to face “just” the sex with young child allegations . Would not be surprised to see them try and pin similar stuff on Bill C to exonerate Trump. One can never be too cynical! ESP concerning Trump and Putin.
 
Matt, sanity may be too much to ask for in the age of Trump. Perhaps the best we can hope for is to find a loonie whose ravings we like.
 
Considering Trump's germaphobia using hookers seems outlandish, unless it was pre-Aids. We're in "Whitey" tape territory.
 
Seriously, what the hell would Trump need a modelling agency for, if not to sweeten deals with "forbiden" temptations? He may like curves but having sex with these girls is not something he would abstain from if his wealthy wheelers and dealers partook. Wouldn't it seem odd if he were the only one not having sex with them - exactly if HE is the one blackmailing the others?
 
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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Theories of Wolff

I'd like to offer a few unconventional thoughts about Michael Wolff's book Fire and Fury.

How Wolff got in. It's pretty clear that Wolff wormed his way into the White House by pretending to be one of the boys. Specifically, he talked shit about the Clintons. You might say that Wolff updated the tactic used by many an infiltrator back in 1970, when anti-war protesters presumed that any long-haired dude who lit up a joint just had to be cool. Same strategy, different target group: Talking paranoid trash about Hillary is the new version of sparking up a spliff.

Trump took Wolff, at first, to be another Ed Klein. Apparently, Trump knows all about Klein and considers him a "great guy." Very telling.

Is Wolff really working for Trump? This is a theory that I can neither endorse nor dismiss. It's certainly counter-intuitive, and may strike many of you as too absurd to take seriously. Let's look at it anyways.

My big problem with Wolff's book is that it can be used to exonerate Trump. Wolff argues that Trump had no real desire to become president; therefore, Trump could not have known about any covert dealings with the Russians.

The evidence favoring that argument, when examined closely, is very thin. Trump ran to win, and the Trump/Russia conspiracy has been established pretty damned conclusively: See Luke Harding's book Collusion. Also see here and here.

Wolff mentions nothing about Dmitry Rybolovlev and his ultra-shady purchase of that Trump property for far more than it was worth. We see nothing here about the proposed Trump development deals in Russia. Not one mention of Deutsche Bank. Not one mention of the Bank of Cyprus.

The book does mention the Bayrock Group, but only in these perfunctory paragraphs:
• Tevfik Arif, a former Russian official who ran the Bayrock Group, a middleman in Trump financings with an office in Trump Tower.

• Felix Sater (sometimes spelled Satter), a Russian-born immigrant to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, who had previously served time in prison in connection with a fraud at a Mafia-run brokerage and who went to work for Bayrock and had a business card identifying him as senior adviser to Donald Trump. (When Sater’s name later continued to surface, Trump assured Bannon he didn’t know Sater at all.)
That's all, folks.

No mention of those underaged prostitutes Arif is reported to have used to obtain kompromat on politicians and businessmen. If Wolff had let his readers know about that unsavory business, his readers might have formulated their own theories as to why Trump ran for president -- and ran to win, even though he may not have truly wanted the gig. We might also have a better understanding of why certain anti-Trump congress-critters are now Trump-worshippers. We might even comprehend why a certain personage associated with a certain intelligence committee has done so much on Trump's behalf.

Naturally, Wolff accepts the election results at face value. Don't buy a book like this expecting to see any reference to those precincts in Wisconsin where the Trump votes outnumbered the residents. Don't expect to see any mention of the fact that Trump's lawyers fought tooth and nail against a forensic examination of the voting tabulators. (Can you think of a legitimate reason for the lawyers to take that position? I can't.)

The theory that Wolff is secretly working for Trump could explain why this White House has done so much to increase the sales of Fire and Fury. Perhaps Wolff didn't really infiltrate the White House; perhaps he is infiltrating the Resistance.

As mentioned earlier: I can neither endorse nor dismiss this theory. I simply note it.

Wolff and the intelligence community. Here's an idea you probably won't see elsewhere: Is Michael Wolff connected to Spooksville?

(This theory may be impossible to reconcile with the one offered above. Again: I don't ask you to believe it, and I'm not saying that I believe it myself. Just mull it over.)

This "Spooky Wolff" idea first occurred to me years ago when I read Wolff's Rupert Murdoch bio, which offers a wholly unsatisfactory account of how Murdoch first acquired the financing to build his empire.

There have long been rumors -- not to mention a decent amount of evidence (plus these allegations from Sterling Seagrave) -- linking the Murdochian grubstake to the Nugan Hand affair. The CIA had parked a lot of Southeast Asian drug money in Australian banks toward the end of the Vietnam war, and more than a few people have wondered if that absurdly-huge influx of cash wasn't used to create the right-wing media universe as we know it today.

Do we hear about any of this in Wolff's book about Murdoch? No. Wolff does not address this allegation -- not even to disprove it. Either Wolff considers all such claims to be beneath his notice, or he was party to some sort of "old boys" agreement to exorcise the spooks.

Instead, Wolff's The Man Who Owns the News offers a not-very credible Murdoch origin story in which bankers just happen to toss endless funds at Murdoch's business ventures, many of which must have seemed pretty damned iffy at the time. Nice work if you can get it!

For my previous work on Murdochian links to the intelligence community, see here and here. If you follow the evidence trail with any kind of an open mind, you'll see that these links are not easy to dismiss; this is a valid area for further research, not an exercise in Alex Jonesian wackiness. Yet Wolff won't touch that stuff.

Now let's turn to Wolff's more recent work. His entrance into Trumpworld is really no different from the way Larry Kolb, a spy working for Miles Copeland, got into the orbits of Muhammed Ali and Adnan Khashoggi. If you read Kolb's book Overworld in conjunction with Wolff's, you'll see that both men used pretty much the same approach.

Wolff's recounting of Trump's bizarre speech at CIA headquarters is particularly striking. We've all heard about the sheer weirdness of his performance, but until Wolff's book came out, I didn't know how weird it truly was. On an occasion when he should have been mending fences, Trump offered the verbal equivalent of a Salvador Dali masterpiece. The new president more or less told an assemblage of Agency personnel that dogs become anteaters in a field of silent onions while the Batmobile eats the insidious raccoon who watches the Big Bang Theory on Channel Jesus.

(Okay, I'm paraphrasing. But Trump's actual remarks were only slightly more sensible.)

Wolff's recounting of this episode offers one very telling bit. Trump's ramblings include a riff on why we should have stolen the oil from the Iraq war.
You know the old expression, to the victor belongs the spoils? You remember I always say, keep the oil.”

“Who should keep the oil?” asked a bewildered CIA employee, leaning over to a colleague in the back of the room.
Most readers of this passage will only want to discuss the morality of oil-theft. What I want to know is this: How the hell did Wolff know what CIA personnel were saying in the back of the room?

Think about it. CIA guys don't open up with just any writer.

How did Wolff know that Kushner went to CIA headquarters to check out the rumor that Obama had asked (or semi-asked) the Brits to spy on Trumpworld?

Why is Wolff the only author who places such emphasis on the antipathy which Michael Flynn (following the lead of his friend Michael Ledeeen) holds for CIA?

Here's a passage worthy of consideration in this context:
“Deep state,” the left-wing and right-wing notion of an intelligence-network permanent-government conspiracy, part of the Breitbart lexicon, became the Trump team term of art: he’s poked the deep state bear.

Names were put to this: John Brennan, the CIA director; James Clapper, the director of national intelligence; Susan Rice, the outgoing National Security Advisor; and Ben Rhodes, Rice’s deputy and an Obama favorite.

Movie scenarios were painted: a cabal of intelligence community myrmidons, privy to all sorts of damning evidence of Trump’s recklessness and dubious dealings, would, with a strategic schedule of wounding, embarrassing, and distracting leaks, make it impossible for the Trump White House to govern.

What Kushner was told, again and again, is that the president had to make amends. He had to reach out. He had to mollify. These were forces not to be trifled with was said with utmost gravity.
Trump’s criticism seemed to align him with the left in its half century of making a bogeyman of American intelligence agencies. But, in quite some reversal, the liberals and the intelligence community were now aligned in their horror of Donald Trump.
As a side note, I would argue that the situation is bit more nuanced than Wolff indicates. Back in the 1990s, I noticed that the far-right made a habit co-opting many of the anti-CIA criticisms traditionally associated with the left. That's how the Birchers found new converts among the young and naive. It was not uncommon for young people to start out with Covert Action Information Bulletin and then "graduate" to works written by far-right conspiracy-peddlers. We all know that louts like Alex Jones and Roger Stone have tried to commandeer the work done by the JFK assassination research community.

Enough about that. I'd like to focus on these words:
...a cabal of intelligence community myrmidons, privy to all sorts of damning evidence of Trump’s recklessness and dubious dealings, would, with a strategic schedule of wounding, embarrassing, and distracting leaks, make it impossible for the Trump White House to govern.
(I love that word: "Myrmidon." Gotta start using it. It comes from the Iliad.)

The obvious inference here is that the leaks which have bedeviled Trump (perhaps including the revelations within this very book) stem, in part, from the intelligence community. Wolff has strongly implied that he has voice recordings which will verify much of what he says. Please note that he never has specified that he did the recording.

The less-obvious inference is that the endless stream of "wounding, embarrassing, and distracting leaks" which has bedeviled Bill and Hillary Clinton also stemmed from antipathy stirring within the intelligence community, or at least from one faction thereof. One could write an entire book about that, if one were of a mind to. Of course, anyone who writes a book defending the Clintons can't expect Michael Wolffian sales figures.

Here's another excerpt concerning the "Tapp" tweet:
With his misspellings and his use of 1970s lingo—“wire tapping” called up an image of FBI agents crouched in a van on Fifth Avenue -- it seemed kooky and farcical. Of the many tweets that Trump had seemed to hoist himself by, from the point of view of the media, intelligence community, and extremely satisfied Democrats, the wiretap tweets had pulled him highest and most left him dangling in ignorance and embarrassment.
This passage is trenchant. But how would Wolff know the intelligence community's reaction? I don't recall reading any articles published during that episode which relayed the IC's innermost views.

Of the Afghanistan decision:
The second option, a force of contractors and the CIA, was largely deep-sixed by the CIA. The agency had spent sixteen years successfully avoiding Afghanistan, and everyone knew that careers were not advanced in Afghanistan, they died in Afghanistan. So please keep us out of it.
Again, how would Wolff know?

Speaking of the JFK assassination: Students of that case will recognize one name that pops up in passing. Of the intel community's assessment that Russia helped Trump, Wolff offers the following:
“The underlying premise of the case is that spies tell the truth,” said the veteran intelligence community journalist Edward Jay Epstein. “Who knew?”
This, from freakin' Epstein -- they guy who, for decades, has operated on the principle Angleton said it, I believe it, and that settles it. Apparently, Epstein thought it was all right to mistrust the CIA, but not all right to mistrust Angleton's CIA-within-the-CIA.
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Comments:
You pull a lot of threads together here.

Very compelling, and thanks.

And myrmidons is indeed a great word. I'll take your lead and work it in where it fits!

XI
 
Speaking of Nugan-Hand, don't know if you saw this:

Nugan Hand bank mystery: Michael Hand found living in the United States

http://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/nugan-hand-bank-mystery-michael-hand-found-living-in-the-united-states-20151107-gkthas.html
 

This news article is all about the fraudulent misdirection that has been pushed about the Trump dossier;

"One of the most contentious issues surrounding the Trump dossier is the question of whether the FBI used unverified material from the dossier — a Clinton campaign opposition research product — to apply for permission to spy on Americans. Investigators from both House and Senate have long wanted to see any FISA applications (that is, spying requests filed with the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court) that dealt with the Trump-Russia affair.

Now, they have seen them.

Sources on both Capitol Hill and in the executive branch have confirmed that representatives of four committees — the House Intelligence Committee, Senate Intelligence Committee, House Judiciary Committee, and Senate Judiciary Committee — have had the opportunity to examine FISA documents in a secure room at the Justice Department."

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/byron-york-yes-congress-has-seen-trump-russia-secret-court-surveillance-documents-now-what/article/2645498

What's overlooked is what this means for the investigation of the Trump/Russia conspiracy. "Any FISA applications... that dealt with the Trump-Russia affair" could include requests regarding; Manafort, Sater, Flynn, Bannon, Kushner, Donald Jr., Mercer, Prince, Guillianni, members of Congress, Trump himself, and others.

Investigators and prosecutors would want to control this information tightly. Is it now "out there". Do bad actors now know who has been miked? Have they had conversations with these people who were being recorded? Now the bad actors know what the investigators know. This could be a game changer.
 
Joseph, very interesting post. So much irony, so little time. You could have called it Wolff: Observations and Theories.

“Lotta strands in old Duder's head,” for the Lebowski fans.

Odd to run across Epstein. The only thing he wrote of memorable value I can recall is his piece on the fall of ont-time, but no longer French Presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn:
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2011/12/22/what-really-happened-dominique-strauss-kahn/

 
Love the commenters on this site!
Nice to see you again XI.
Can we give Dianne Finstein credit for doing something with half a spine?
I am not advocating a total pardon, just a shout out to a Democrat that knows how to play the game.

 
Margie, you've got that about right, half a spine has Feinstein. Heh. Seriously, cynical though I am, I think she'd have done the same thing even if she faced no primary threat.

In re Epstein: the point I left unstated is that there had been a sense of some Agency being miffed about french secret police running that operation here in the US. Or, was that my imagination?
 
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