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Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Larry Lessig says that as many as twenty Republican electors could flip. Such a shift won't change the outcome, although it gets us roughly halfway there. I think he's wrong -- unless we learn something truly spectacular about the role played by Vladimir Putin, in which case all bets are off.

Nevertheless, I hope Lessig is right. Any elector who takes a stand against Trump will earn history's accolades.

Fifty-five electors demand an intelligence briefing on the Russia connection before they cast their votes. Alas, only one of those electors is a Republican.

If serious new revelations comes out, and if 40 electors turn faithless, and if those electors decide against casting a vote for Hillary (a good bet), the election goes to the House. What will they do?

I think that House Republicans would demand a Republican alternative. Kasich is the choice if you want a compromise candidate who would please Democrats and Republicans, but Pence is the choice for those Republicans who feel that the president should be someone who actually was on the ticket (albeit not on the top spot). I think that many Democrats would hold their noses and go for Pence if doing so could keep Trump out of the White House.

The case against Putin. Yesterday, we were flooded with new information about Putin's efforts on behalf of Trump. In case you missed them, here are two must-read pieces from the NYT:

The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.
Democratic House Candidates Were Also Targets of Russian Hacking

From the first article:
There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind,” Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and commander of United States Cyber Command, said at a postelection conference. “This was not something that was done casually, this was not something that was done by chance, this was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily,” he said. “This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”
Here's the part that stings:
Mr. Obama was briefed regularly on all this, but he made a decision that many in the White House now regret: He did not name Russians publicly, or issue sanctions. There was always a reason: fear of escalating a cyberwar, and concern that the United States needed Russia’s cooperation in negotiations over Syria.

“We’d have all these circular meetings,” one senior State Department official said, “in which everyone agreed you had to push back at the Russians and push back hard. But it didn’t happen.”

So the Russians escalated again — breaking into systems not just for espionage, but to publish or broadcast what they found, known as “doxing” in the cyberworld.

It was a brazen change in tactics, moving the Russians from espionage to influence operations.
The first, most brazen bit of doxing was the revelation of that infamous intercepted call by Victoria Nuland. Remember? "Yats is our guy"? We were so angry at Nuland that we missed a larger issue: Russia had, in essence, declared cyberwar on the U.S.

What did Barack Obama do about it? Nothing. He took action against Chelsea Manning, but not against Russia.

Why did Obama let the Russians get away with it? The most charitable view is that Obama wanted Putin to sign off on a Syrian peace scenario in which Assad stepped down.

The President's strategy was misguided, to say the least.
Last year, the attacks became more aggressive. Russia hacked a major French television station, frying critical hardware. Around Christmas, it attacked part of the power grid in Ukraine, dropping a portion of the country into darkness, killing backup generators and taking control of generators. In retrospect, it was a warning shot.
Every so often Obama does something that reminds me of why I never liked him. His unwillingness to confront Moscow comes perilously close to culpability.

Marcy Wheeler.
Readers of this blog know that I view Marcy Wheeler with a respect bordering on awe. Lately, alas, she has foolishly questioned the presumption that Russia is the guilty party in the cyber-espionage operation against the Democrats. In essence, she has granted credibility to Trump's childish denials.

You can hear her discuss that matter in this interview with Brad Friedman.
Over the weekend, Washington Post and New York Times each reported on unnamed sources alleging a "secret" "consensus" of U.S. intelligence agencies charging Russia tried to interfere with the Presidential election in order to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. National security journalist and author Marcy Wheeler of offers a measure of skepticism about the explosive reports on those allegations, which she suggests could echo what proved to be blatantly misrepresented and cherry-picked intel by the George W. Bush Administration in their run-up to the Iraq War.
Basically, this is Trump's argument: If the Agency says something Donnie doesn't want to hear, one need merely point out that Iraq didn't have WMDs after all.

The trouble with that comparison (as Keith Olbermann points out in the embedded video) is that the CIA did not get the intel wrong. The Bush White House merely cherry-picked the intel that they liked.

Intelligence analysis always has been and always will be a game of probably versus maybe: I don't think that the analysts ever said that they had high confidence that Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction. Dubya elevated maybe over probably for his own purposes.

Nevertheless, Marcy focused on the "aluminum tube" analogy in her December 9 piece.
NYT now says the RNC hack was by GRU in the spring, so it is a fair question why the DNC things got leaked but RNC did not.

Also, Sanger and Shane say “largely documents” from Dems were leaked. That’s false. There were two streams of non-Wikileaks releases, Guccifer, which did leak all-Dem stuff, and DC Leaks, which leaked stuff that might be better qualified as Ukrainian related. The most publicized of documents from the latter were from Colin Powell, which didn’t help Trump at all.
The Powell material helped Trump a great deal, and not just because Powell said some ugly things about Hillary; he also accused Bill Clinton of having post-presidency affairs with "bimbos." Most news articles gave the impression that Powell based this statement on insider knowledge; in fact, Powell was simply parroting gossip published by that paragon of journalism, the New York Post.

Marcy goes into greater detail in this December 10 piece.
Finally, there is the real possibility that other people hacked the DNC, in addition to FSB and GRU. That possibility is heightened because a DNC staffer was hacked via what may have been another method, and because DNC emails show a lot of password changes off services for which DNC staffers had had their accounts exposed in other hacks.
Marcy then goes on to cast doubt on the identification of Gufficer 2 as a Russian cut-out. Frankly, I think she is being silly. The afore-quoted NYT story (which was, admittedly, published after December 10) solidifies the Guccifer case: Although Guccifer 2 claimed to be a Romanian crank engaged in a lonely battle with the "Illuminati," he turned out to have no knowledge of the Romanian language, and he used a Russian-language version of Mircosoft Word. (Guccifer also used the name Felix Edmundovich, a shout-out to Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Cheka.)

I should also add that the first Guccifer was, in all likelihood, a cut-out for Russia posing as an Illuminati-spotter.

Look, I could spend a lot of time arguing against Marcy on a point-by-point basis, but the game isn't worth the candle. I need merely offer these two points:

1. The dispute within the intelligence community has not been "Did or did not Russia hack the Democrats?" The dispute has been over motive. Did they do this in order to undermine confidence in the American election system or for the direct purpose of electing Donald Trump? Logic tells us that if the Obama administration were engaged in a grand anti-Russia frame job, there wouldn't be a dispute over motive.

2. This NYT piece contains a correction which clarifies that Paul Ryan staffer AshLee Strong "did not dispute that the materials had been stolen as part of an act of Russian espionage." Paul Ryan has clearance and has had access to classified material not available to Marcy Wheeler -- and he has no motive for going along with an Obama administration lie.

Is there any evidence that someone other than Russia was involved? Assange denies Russian involvement -- but at this point, I wouldn't trust Julian Assange if he said "Hi, my name is Julian Assange."

Former UK ambassador Craig Murray says that Assange got material from a DNC insider
Mr Murray said: "I know who leaked them. I’ve met the person who leaked them, and they are certainly not Russian and it’s an insider. It’s a leak, not a hack; the two are different things.

“If what the CIA are saying is true, and the CIA’s statement refers to people who are known to be linked to the Russian state, they would have arrested someone if it was someone inside the United States.

“America has not been shy about arresting whistleblowers and it’s not been shy about extraditing hackers. They plainly have no knowledge whatsoever.”
Maybe I'm missing something, but to my eyes, this statement makes little sense. The second and third paragraphs undercut the claim made in paragraph 1.

Anyways, this is all weak tea. "Material"? How much material? What kind of material? I have no doubt that Roger Stone sought to plant someone within the DNC -- or to bribe someone, or to subvert someone -- but Murray's statement doesn't exactly answer all of our questions.

There are many, many other reasons for presuming that Russia is the source of our current woes. Keith Olbermann mentions a few "tells" in the embedded video at the top of this post.
Great post, glad to see you are still fighting the good fight!
If it goes to the House, they can only choose someone who came in the top three in the electoral college. So if 40 Republican electors vote faithlessly, the only choice for the House other than Trump or Clinton will be whoever got a plurality of those 40 votes. They won't get a choice between Kasich and Pence. This is assuming that the top two are Trump and Clinton.

As I understand it, electors aren't allowed to abstain: constitutionally they must vote. But how the Supreme Court or anyone else could force an elector to vote isn't clear.

Further points arise.

If Trump still has support from 17 states in the House - the vote is by states - they can abstain and make the House inquorate.

If the House chooses Pence, who will the Senate choose as Vice-President? Probably they can't choose Pence - the constitution assumes, albeit without stating, that the President and the VP are different people - but would that mean they could only vote for Kaine? If yes, then how the Jesuits will cackle! Or would they be able to choose whoever a plurality of the 40 faithless electors voted for as VP? They are only allowed to choose from the top two in the EC, so the question turns on who the top two actually are. Are they Pence and Kaine, with Pence crossed out, therefore Kaine alone remains in the ballot? Or when Pence is crossed out, are they Kaine and the originally third-placed person?
Have you seen Scott Ritter's piece in HuffPo today? Even if CIA analysts are pointing at Putin, is that a slam dunk? I'm still waiting for hard evidence of Putin's direct involvement. Also consider how some of these claims of Russian involvement or connection might mean little more than traces of Cyrillic language software (so what? I can read enough Russian to do that) or traffic routed through a server, or a pattern of activity that anonymous analysts speculate about and give cute names to like "Lazy Bear" and "Fancy Bear". How sure is some guy about these accusations? Super sure! So if you're mad about Trump, it's Putin's fault.

Did you hear how he mocked us at Valdai "What is America a banana republic?"

Well, are we?

Because it's funny how blaming a foreign power seems to be distracting us from blaming the FBI. Aren't they actually the guilty party? Isn't there polling showing that?

But what I also fail to understand is how the Russians tipped the election to Trump by way of DNC / Wikileaks media manipulation. Where were the fakes? Where was the damage? Didn't you argue the DNC leaks amounted to nothing?

Not saying Russia did nothing - better proof may be forthcoming. But suppose it's proven Putin ordered DNC hacks and leaks.

That, disturbing as it may be, would still only be a sideshow to our own FBI.

Isn't that the story?

Hmmm...someone with a name I've never heard of shows up here all of a sudden and tries to convince us that "Nope, no evidence against our noble friends the Russians, nothing to see here, move along, move along..."

This doesn't pass the smell test. :P
vossiowacity, I was thinking what you wrote. The Putin narrative is far too complex to figure out right now. The Putin discussion distracts us from James Comey. Imainge if James was to hold a press conference today or tomorrow to answer reporters questions. By the time he was done answering questions, there might be a mass exodus to Hillary Clinton.
So instead, Comey is in hiding. Worst still, the media won't even report that Comey is in hiding. The Comey narrative has been reduced to fire him or charge him with treason, neither makes sense in my opinion.
I started a petition demanding that Comey come out of hiding and hold a press conference before the Electoral College Electors vote on Monday. James Comey - Come out of Hiding and Face the Press before the Electoral College Electors Vote
I agree, vossiowacity. The FBI's interfering, along with the complicit media, is more important to me. Altho Russian trolls flooding the net surely had an effect, they would not have caused much damage without the Berniebrats carrying water for their antiHillary messages.

Our airwaves and our ballots should be the top concern. However, this is who WE are. This is America's problem. I'm in full Dr Strangelove mode.
I have no doubts that the Russians try to 'hack' us all over the place and sometimes succeed.

However NO proof has been shown that they actually 'hacked' voting machines.

I read that some tablulators could be hacked however i also read they were not linked to the internet.

I have no doubt that individual machines could be manually hacked if someone got access to each individual machine.

HOWEVER-then what. If you truly believe this then the ONLY way to prevent it is go back to the 50's and all paper and manual counting. See how that would go over.

the only answer i see is new scan machines that have no internet ports and no way to be remotely accessed. Just 'manually' hacking all the machines would be a herculean task.
b -

Busting the quorum in the house in order to block the election is not going to work. First off, it would take 17 state delegations to be absent in their entirety (as long as one representative is present, the state counts towards the quorum). Furthermore, the house's obligation to choose a president remains until it does indeed choose a president or the presidential term expires, so the quorum-busters would have to remain absent for their entire two-year term. And on top of all this, those representatives present can compel by force the presence of the absentees (i.e. issue arrest warrants), so the quorum-busters would have to go into hiding or flee the country. And then, after all this, the new house (the one elected in 2018) can still (indeed is obliged to) make the election.

It is theoretically possible for the same person to be elected president and vice president. In that case, he/she becomes president, and upon taking office nominates someone to fill the vice-presidential vacancy as per the 25th amendment. It is irrelevant which election is first completed, and no candidate is removed from or added to the top 3/top 2 lists.

A Scandinavian
Craig Murray is not a disinterested party in this. He is an Assange friend, ally and loyalist. Any reporting of his comments that doesn't mention this (and most do not) omits something that should be disclosed in the lede to better understand his potential biases.

His argument is a variation of the Sherlock Holmes story, in which the dog doesn't bark and the case is solved from a deduction from that fact. But in this case, the dog was muzzled, and unable to bark, which guts the force of that observation.

Comey, in charge of the FBI's domestic counterintelligence efforts, refused to sign onto the findings or go public. McConnell refused to join a bipartisan front against this, threatening to scream it was all a partisan attack if it was made public.

Under such circumstances, the actions Murray notes didn't happen were foreclosed. Comey refused to act, and PBO was stood down by McConnell's warning shots across the bow.


XI, it now appears ridiculously obvious that Murray is lying his ass off. The guy's basically turned into a kind of Pizzagator by this point.

I'll have more to say on that score very soon.
So that is not the way our democracy works. We’ve been around for 240 years. We’ve had free and fair elections. We’ve accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them. And that is what must be expected of anyone standing on a debate stage during a general election.

– Hillary Rodham Clinton, October 19, 2016

"But what I also fail to understand is how the Russians tipped the election to Trump by way of DNC / Wikileaks media manipulation."

@AlecMacGillis One can't overstate how much voters conflated the Wikileaks emails w/ the private email server. It's why those leaks were so costly to HRC.

Anon222, what are describing is a failure of our MSM

the "source of your woes" is the corruption of the DNC and cowardice of its lackeys.
Oh RIGHT. The DNC -- which has almost no power, even though both the right and the left fantasize otherwise -- is THE corrupt entity in today's political environment.

And your proof is some bullshit by some despicable lying BernieBot.

You know who you remind me of? The leftwingers in Germany in 1930-33 who devoted ALL of their energies to weakening what they saw as the single most dangerous and corrupt party of the all -- the Social Democrats.

Carefully read the history of those years and you'll see. Adolf would never have risen to power if the BernieBot equivalents of Weimar had not smeared the SPD at every turn.

Stupid. Shortsighted.

Yet history repeats itself.

Anon 10.51am. Thanks for this. You're right that 17 entire state delegations would have to abstain. But if a smaller number of Republicans annoy them enough, such a large group of Republicans may possibly be able to use the threat of quorum denial as a bargaining counter, even if for a much shorter time than two years. Then the Vice-President could act as president from 4 March and appoint a ninth Supreme Court justice with Senate approval, etc. You say "And on top of all this, those representatives present can compel by force the presence of the absentees (i.e. issue arrest warrants), so the quorum-busters would have to go into hiding or flee the country.", but can they compel them to vote? I didn't think they had to vote, unlike electors. The 12th amendment says "electors (...) shall vote", but that "the House (...) shall choose (...) by ballot" and then talks of the quorum.

Thanks too for your last paragraph. So that means that if the president is elected first, whether by electoral college or the House, then if the electoral college or Senate chooses the same person as VP they are effectively letting that person choose whoever he likes as VP.
"some despicable lying BernieBot"

Trump managed to unify his party after a contentious nomination process. Clinton did not, preferring to target her attention towards mythical "disaffected Republicans" while ignoring local Democratic organizations who tried in vain to alert her campaign that it was bleeding support among traditional Democratic voters. Had she not done so, we'd be discussing her cabinet picks here. Instead, we have an erratic, petulant 5 year-old about to take over the Executive Branch.

You don't unify a party by calling other factions within it "despicable", just as you don't win working class voters by ignoring their economic concerns and implying they're inherently racist or misogynistic.

Blame Bernie all you want, Joseph, that still doesn't absolve Clinton, Podesta, and Mook for this fiasco.
"Nach Drumpf, uns!"--motto of the Horseshoe Left (from the Horseshoe Theory)

Only in this case, the actual expectation would be "Nach Putin, uns!".

Meanwhile, the rank-and-file Trump Chumps won't mind if Pumpkinhead double-crosses them on all tangible benefits, just so they are free to yell the N-word if they feel like it. And you're damn right, Joe. The Trump Chumps are our inferiors.
The idea that it must be the Russians because someone saw some Cyrillic script is about as stupid as the idea that Donald Trump must be a ~KGB asset because he praises Vladimir Putin so much and has given out the message that he wants the US to cosy up with Russia. Sometimes I wonder how many know the Manchurian Candidate reference.

People need to read only about two pages by Valery Gerasimov, now the chief of the Russian general staff, to realise that cyber war is fought over the entire terrain of the opponent. And clearly it's hotter on the terrain of western Europe, the Baltic states, and the US than it is in Russia, Debord-quoting Pussy Riot in the cathedral notwithstanding. In short, the Pentagon's a long way behind.

I have long believed that the ~KGB own a large share in Wikileaks and Julian Assange, and I said it before this blog did. I think the same about Edward Snowden. But that is all. They don't own them completely. They own a large share. I mean frankly don't tell me Sarah Harrison is free from any possibility of being partly owned by SIS. "(F)ollowing an appeal ruling in January journalists are now effectively exempt from Schedule 7". Yeah, right. Journalists exempt from anti-terrorist legislation? Britgov didn't do very well in court on that one, and they didn't appeal either. They were playing a game of "don't throw me in the briar patch", in my opinion. You can read the judgment here. "English PEN" were involved. For fuck's sake! SIS and the ~KGB aren't separate organisations the way they used to be.

Craig Murray's most amusing line is that "anti-Russian racism (...) has permeated the Democratic Party rhetoric for quite some time". But this is the guy who said that many "Russian speakers" in Ukraine were "ethnic Ukrainian". He also referred to English speakers in Scotland. At this point I have to smile. Russian speakers in the Ukraine are Russian. Get a clue!

He also said that when a British diplomat in Jerusalem got assaulted by a Palestinian protestor, had it been him he would have kicked the Palestinian in the shins. I've got two observations about that. First, that would obviously be fucking stupid. Second, the whole attitude appears very "white man's burden" to me. It's as if he's saying that some of the Palestinians don't appreciate the extent to which posh Brits are trying to help them, that they should let the said foreign "helpers" do their jobs the way they want to, and if any thoughts to the contrary arise in their little foreign minds they should shut their mouths and stop getting so excited. Which is not to say that Murray is always like that. Often he isn't. But he has that streak in him.

Murray himself appears on Russia Today, and whilst I don't hold that against him at all, one has to factor in the kind of pieces he does, for example complaining about Britain "illegally harassing" a Russian submarine. What's he up to? Answer: he's got to eat, OK. I doubt it's much more than that. But I'm looking forward to reading your take on him, Joe.
The Democratic and Republican leaderships have for years worked with the CIA around the world. They do it under the umbrella of the National Endowment for Democracy, funded largely by the US Congress, and under the specific names of the party-political National Democratic Institute and the National Republican Institute, the latter of which was renamed the International Republican Institute.

While Pussy Riot sell records and a few hundred middle class Muscovites - probably in some cases village idiots - brave the streets carrying pro-"democracy" banners, Vladimir Putin is still in office. Here's a clue: pop music doesn't work the way they want it to in Russia. Take a look at what happens when the national anthem gets played.

Most Russians realise that "democracy" means "shittocracy" ("derеmokratiya" - деремократия). They aren't as fucking stupid as some of the more naive US propagandists believe.

Also I suspect US Russianists may be a bit lacking in their understanding of the relationship between Russian religion and state. Boris Berezovsky was also naive on that issue, although he eventually wised up.

Maybe now some of the officials at the CIA's Russian desk have woken up and smelled the coffee too?
What has hurt Russia the most? Low oil revenues because of greatly increased 'shale oil production' in the USA

What candidate vowed to 'curb fracking' -i;ll give you a hint-initials HRC

What candidate vowed to 'increase fracking'-i'll give you a hint initials DJT

you have to make your own conclusions
So here's what I don't understand, Joseph.

Back in 2014, you were outraged that the CIA was waging a propaganda campaign against Putin as part of a coup in Ukraine:

Yet, in 2016, you're delighted the CIA is waging a propaganda campaign against Putin to justify a "soft coup" in the United States.

I find your volte-face on Putin (and your new-found affection for the CIA) to be a little strange.

Personally, I've always thought he was an imperialist thug (although he wrote a great Judo book).

As for Obama's reluctance to name Russia as a threat to US security: one can hardly blame him, since it would imply that Romney was somewhat more perceptive than he was back in the 2012 debates (surely you remember "the 1980s called, they want their foreign policy back").

Oh, and if the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is to be believed, Russia isn't the only state actor launching cyberattacks against the US election system:

I wonder who they were backing?
I was expecting a military confrontation between the US and Russia before the US election, with Trump wheeling round and becoming the war guy. Who knows, maybe we'll get it before the inauguration. A confrontation between the US and China is also possible.

Trump's notion of the "deal" is basically you "pussy" someone. He's a thug and this is what his moronic male supporters like about him.

I have encountered some of them in chat rooms, and FUCK are they stupid! People who are that stupid about political stuff usually keep their gobs shut. Now they're out and proud and strutting about, saying how great Trump is without being anywhere near sufficiently capable intellectually to marshal arguments for their case, even when addressed politely. They feel their day has come.

Prop, I've said it many times. What turned me around was Donald Trump.
b -

There aren't 17 all-Republican state delegations. Representatives can abstain from voting, but if they are present they count towards the quorum. If for whatever reason some of them want to block/delay the election, they shouldn't go the quorum-busting route, but rather try to deadlock the vote. This might be doable, with three candidates and a candidate needing 26 states to win. It will be rather annoying (and perhaps embarrassing) work though, since they will have to keep on balloting.

The presidential term starts on January 20 (it was March 4 before the 20th amendment).

When the president nominates someone to be vice president per the 25th amendment, the nominee must be confirmed by both houses.

A Scandinavian
Awesome...finally, an Olbermann video. The first time I saw his crazy "Closer" rants on youtube that makes Alex Jones look like he is on ambien, I thought to myself that was Cannonfire in video form.
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