Friday, August 10, 2018

Back! Avenatti, Steele, Nunes, Che Guevara and more...

I've been ambitious and uncharacteristically productive during this period of absence. A reader encouraged me to write a book on Trump's women. At the moment, I'm well into the Melania chapter -- and the hell of it is, I still don't know how to feel about her. Does anyone? Most Dems do not like her, but nobody is quite sure what to make of her.

And what can one say about wife number 2? Maybe the title of that chapter should read "Marla Maples: The Nice One." Those words can sit above a blank page.

(Okay, there's more to it than that.)

I've also been working on a video project -- a possible series of videos devoted to exploring and (when appropriate) exploding various conspiracy theories, particularly those offered by fear-fueled folks on the right. Many readers know that I spent much of the 1990s mired in the tar pits of paranoia. Here's the thing about a tar pit: No matter how confidently you tell yourself "I won't get sucked in," you get sucked in.

Having finally escaped, I feel a need to warn others. Consider this effort a kind of atonement.

If the video embedded above makes a good impression, and if time allows, I'll continue with the series. In this first installment, most of the research was already done by Snopes (a thousand blessings upon them!), although I offer a few personal insights. Subsequent efforts should contain more original research.

If you can watch this video in HD, please do! I'm proud of that opening, but some of the visual details get lost in the low-def version. If you think the series worth continuing, words of encouragement will be most welcome.

The news: So much has happened! First, a word about Rachel Maddow's great scoop -- the secret recording of Devin Nunes speaking at a fundraiser. He reveals that the plot to impeach Rosenstein will proceed apace after the confirmation of Kavanaugh and the mid-term elections.

My reaction is two-fold.

In the first place: I do think that the impeachment is a serious effort, not a fringe thing. In today's GOP, the fringe is mainstream.What's more, I think that the effort to deep-six Rosenstein (and Mueller) will probably succeed. The party is wedded to Trump and cannot afford to see him fall.

In the second place -- well, to be honest, my "second place" reaction kind of conflicts with my "first place" reaction. Lawrence O'Donnell is right: Nunes flat out lied when he said that the Rosenstein impeachment would force the Senate to table all other discussion, including the Kavanaugh matter. Nunes must have lied for a reason. Maybe he simply felt the need to toss some red meat out to those GOP donors. Maybe he secretly believes that, in the real world, impeachment is neither likely nor practical.

So, which reaction is the right reaction -- my "first place" thought or my "second place" thought? Is Devilish Devin serious about the Rosenstein impeachment, or is it all a big gimmick? The former scenario is more cynical, and thus more likely.

Avenatti: It's semi-official. He says that he is serious about exploring a run for the presidency.

There are things about this guy that I want to see in a candidate. He's smart, still fairly young, good-looking and -- most importantly -- combative. He likes to fight. Unlike (say) the Clintons and the Obamas, Avenatti won't allow the smear-peddlers free reign: He'll sue the lying fucks, and the lying fucks know it. If he doesn't fight back in court, then at least he'll fight back in the court of public opinion.

There's one thing I admire about Trump: He punches back. The Clintons rarely did, and this characteristic drove me crazy. On the rare occasions when they refuted the incessant smears, they tried to do so in an elegant and dignified fashion. That approached worked (imperfectly) in the 1990s, but those days are not these days. We live in vicious times and we need a vicious guy. Avenatti can do vicious.

That's the best thing I can say for him right now. Unfortunately, the case against his candidacy is overwhelming.

He's not a politician, he has no track record on most issues, and he hasn't proven that he can govern anything larger than a law office. He has had an acrimonious break with his former partners; God only knows what kind of skeletons could jump out of that closet. Though I'm hardly a prude, I've no desire to vote for a lawyer who came to fame by representing a porn star.

Many of us are sick of Trumpian tawdriness. Many of us long for normalcy. We've tried the "outsider" thing and it didn't work. Let's get behind someone who has at least one foot on the inside.

If Michael Avenatti wants to run for the highest office in the land, he should first spend time in Congress.

Frankly, he isn't always a welcome presence on our teevee screens. Familiarity breeds contempt, and even for those sympathetic to the Resistance, this guy's welcome has worn thin.

Marcy Wheeler's latest. Woah. This is bizarre. She still thinks that part of the Steele dossier was disinfo provided by the Russians.

My initial response: The most questionable section of the dossier is the "pee" claim, which Steele himself has come to doubt. He says that he is now 50-50 when it comes to that part of the dossier.

Let's repeat a few basics. The dossier is raw intelligence, not journalism. When dealing with raw intel, one expects some of the claims to be wrong. That's why the CIA has analysts: They take raw intel, separate the wheat from the chaff, and produce a finished product.

But -- as I keep pointing out, and as no-one else seems to notice -- the sources for the pee-pee claim were people associated with the Trump campaign.

Specifically, the dossier cites a Russian connected with Trump. In the past, I've suggest that this source (Source E) was Boris Epshteyn, a man who, I hope, will soon disappear from our national dialogue. I formulated this hope for two reasons: First, because his last name is damned hard to spell; second, because he's a dick.

Could Deripaska be the real Source E? Maybe, but I'm unpersuaded. Marcy makes a good case that Steele had used Deripaska as a source well before he (Steele) got the assignment to look into Trump. Deripaska is not a good guy, but a Brit hoping to learn about Russia has to develop sources, and one cannot expect those sources to be saints. That's just the way intelligence gathering works.

Whether or not he helped the dossier come into being, Deripaska is important.

We still don't know the true nature of his relationship with Paul Manafort. There are persistent rumors that Deripaska is linked to arch-villain Semyon Mogilevich, the most dangerous and disgusting mob boss in the history of the planet.

At some point, Deripaska seems to have decided that Paul Manafort owed him a great deal of money -- as much as $17 million. We still don't know precisely what happened, but it is clear that Manafort scrambled to "get whole" with the Russian oligarch.

In light of what we know now, you may be amused to learn that the above-linked NYT story -- from 2017 -- includes this quote from a Manafort spokeman:
“Manafort is not indebted to Mr. Deripaska or the Party of Regions, nor was he at the time he began working for the Trump campaign,” Mr. Maloni said
Really? You don't use the words "get whole" unless you owe someone money.

I'd still like to see more meat on the bones of the claim that Deripaska and Mogilevich worked together. But I'm certain of this much: The more we learn about the Trump/Russia affair, the more we sense the dark presence of Mogilevich.

I've wandered away from Marcy's post, haven't I? Let's get back to her:
But he’s right about one thing: Steele relied on Deripaska for intelligence, and even while he was screaming about Trump’s compromise by the Russians, he was under the impression that Deripaska, who virtually owned Donald Trump’s campaign manager during most of the time Steele was digging dirt on Trump, had been purified of his corrupt ways and influence by the Kremlin.

If this is what it appears, it should be an opportunity for both sides to step back and agree, Jeebus christmas did Russia ever pawn our collective asses in 2016!, and move on to cooperating on ways to recover from all that.

That won’t happen, of course, because both sides still believe the parties were in charge of dealing the dirt, and not Russia, dealing it on both sides.
Oh, please. Can't we have an end to this "both sides" nonsense? Vladimir Satanovich confessed in Helsinki that he wanted Trump to win. There was nothing like the Trump Tower meeting on the Democratic side. At no point did Guccifer 2 reveal that the FBI was investigating Trump. I could go on and on and on.
Update: One other point. Almost everyone in this thread appears to be missing the import of the dossier being used to feed disinformation, if that’s the case. In the same way it is important to know how Russia fed disinformation via Internet trolls and the press, it is important to understand how they fed disinformation directly to the people who were responding to the attack. Understanding that will remain critical going forward, in part because without it we won’t understand how Russia succeeded
I understand that. But.

The most dubious part of the dossier (as noted above) is the urination claim. Steele now believes, or at least half-believes, that this section might have been disinfo fed to his team.

Let's think about this business a little more deeply. What would be the purpose of the disinfo? Obviously, to discredit the good parts of Steele's research. Another purpose might have been to discredit the Clinton campaign -- if Team Clinton had used the dossier in public, which they did not.

To succeed as disinfo, two things were necessary: 1. The claim should have appeared in public before the election, and 2. There must have been some quick and incontrovertible way to demonstrate the falseness of the allegation.

As longtime readers know, I've leaned toward the hypothesis that the "pee" portion of the dossier was disinfo designed to besmirch the good stuff in that dossier. But now that I've given the matter further thought, I see that this hypothesis has one big problem: Even if Trump's hotel room had never received a visit from hookers with bladder issues, how could anyone prove that those hookers were never there?

It's the classic problem of proving a negative.

Even if the "pee tape" allegation is false, it still hurts Trump. The allegation cannot hurt Steele unless and until it can be proven false. If such proof exists, surely we would have seen it by now.

That's the argument against the theory that that "pee pee" portion is disinfo perpetrated by the Russians. I completely agree with one of Marcy's readers:
Sorry, it’s not all a big 16-dimensional chess game.

Big rule of politics, you don’t smear yourself. If this were disinformation, Trump would have been the one to try to get this out. But that’s not what happened.

The idea that the Russians dreamed up a plot to make Trump look bad so they could deny it and pick apart the details and therefore make the Clintons look bad, c’mon. That passes no smell test, and no political precedent.
In truth, there are rare occasions when you do smear yourself.

The most obvious example I can think of goes back to the days of Watergate. According to a very old Jack Anderson column, a spooky guy named Gordon Novel (loosely associated with CREEP) came up with a scheme to concoct a "smoking gun" tape -- an alleged phone recording in which Richard Nixon and Howard Hunt make incriminating statements. The tape would have been a fake, with actors playing Nixon and Hunt.

Novel's plan was to release this tape to the press, thereby whipping up a public frenzy. The goal was to make the entire case against Nixon center around that one piece of evidence, at least in the mind of the average citizen. At the psychologically perfect moment, the tape would be proven a fraud. Result: Team Nixon would have framed the Dems as dirty tricksters, and Woodward and Bernstein's excellent work would have instantly lost credibility.

that is a classic example of how to run a disinformation effort.

But I just don't see how the Steele Dossier can be interpreted as an updated version of that play. In the case of Novel's proposal, it would have been easy to prove that the tape was fraudulent. A confession by the actors. A scientific analysis of the voices.

Again I ask: How can you prove that hookers did not visit Trump's hotel room? The disinfo theory makes sense only if there is a quick-and-easy way to disprove the pee-pee claim.

Of course, there is a lot more to the dossier than waterworks. Marcy links to this post from September of 2017, in which she spars with a CIA guy brilliantly named John Sipher, who argued that the dossier was raw intel which included a lot of material which later proved accurate. Marcy disagrees -- mostly.

I think that Marcy Wheeler has a brilliant mind. Like many other people with brilliant minds, she sometimes makes things needlessly complicated.

In the more recent post, Marcy does make one interesting suggestion:
I’ve since suggested Democrats may have been discussing hiring Steele while GRU’s hackers were still in the Democrat’s email server.
Intriguing! But: Doesn't this suggestion ignore the middleman, Fusion GPS? I may have missed something and my memory is far from perfect -- but I did read Russian Roulette, and don't recall seeing any evidence that any Democrat knew about Steele. They hired Fusion, not Orbis. (For that matter, I've also no proof that Steele knew that his paycheck was coming from a Democratic source, although that would have been an incredibly obvious deduction.)
Off-topic: does the concept of "Viking individualism" have a history on the US far right? Boris Johnson used it in the Torygraph article in which he compared women wearing burqas to postboxes and bank robbers. His article has sparked a big response which surely it was meant to. This is reminiscent to Trump's "they're rapists" and "Second Amendment people", etc.

The phrase "Viking individualism" is in North Dakota judge Andrew Alexander Bruce’s Property and Society 1916. But I am wondering whether Johnson - or his pal Stephen Bannon - may have got it from the more recent book The Fair Race’s Darkest Hour (2016) by the white nationalist Caesar Tort? Has Bannon ever referenced Tort?

"Viking individualism" sounds like the sort of idea that US white racist "kill the race mixers" types with a German or Nordic background might have in their heads. Never mind that fascism is not individualistic: we're not talking about sanity or consistency here.

Well, should it be revealed - or even documented by video - that Donald Trump personally peed on Obama’s mattress, it would just give hime a big popularity boost in the current America, wouldn’t it? Likewise, in this America, a guy who says he gave Trump a blowjob and found the taste delicious, will be regarded as hard evidence against Mueller's witch hunt. That’s about how fucked you are at this point.
"In truth, there are rare occasions when you do smear yourself."

The Dan Rather / Bush National Guard letter also comes to mind.
Caveats about the veracity of some parts of Steel's memos were made by the author from the start. The offer of hookers is plausible given the party involved. Mob business as usual probably turned down bc the ladies not the thoroughbreds Trump could have.

When it comes to dealing with republicans Democrats have been a day late and a dollar short. Bill Clinton offered republicans an olive branch in 1993 and they took his hand up to the elbow as thanks. Advisors wanted Clinton to reopen Iran-Contra but he refused.

Come 2007 newly minted Speaker, Nancy Pelosi infamously said, "Impeachment is off the table" despite the fact Democrats had the majority bc voters wanted Bush investigated. Negative blow back they said and yet, we have the republican Freedom Caucus working to impeach DAG Rod Rosenstein w no apparent consequences.

Democrats must realize they are dealing with opponents devoid of honor.

ADDED: Administration requesting $8Bn FOR their Space Force, how much of that will end up in Trump and Pence pockets?

Loved the video! What fun.
It’s not likely those addicted to rightwing conspiracies will see your videos and admit their gullibility. But it’s important for everyone else be to be informed and forewarned. Thank you for this much need public service. Loved the artistry of your images. Good job explaining the origin of a conspiracy and showing evidence of incongruent tells in the photos. Now, at the end of your video, who and what was the instrument that little guy was tootling? Kinda Woody Woodpeckerish.

SR, the clip to which you refer is a bizarre moment from a silent classic called "Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages" -- a movie which is pretty much ALL bizarre moments. You'll have to see it for yourself.

The Hellish imagery stems from a desire to tweak the noses of the conspiracy freaks. One day, they may claim that my videos contain hidden messages from the Illuminati. I live for the day.
Netflix now has a new doc "Get Me Oliver Stone" for your viewing pleasure.
RE: your film short. Contrast your considerable gifts to Marla and Shera's. Keep up the film production. It takes time pull this together, and while we miss your voice in the interim, we appreciate your arcane knowledge, creativity, and reach. This short makes swallowing the truth about disinformation memorable.

Income may be 1 of the 3 (out of 10) qualifying measures of EB-1 'genius' Visa eligibility. Might "Actresses" and models w/ genius visas -- like Shera and Melanija Knavs -- be "tools" of money launderers and their lackeys in more ways than obvious Trump-style philandering?

There's this curious intersection of lawyer Davidson and Karen McDougal's ex-husband:
"Davidson appears to have other connections to the gossip blog. Karen McDougal’s ex-husband, James Grdina, invested in the website. And Grdina’s brother, Jay, had previously retained Davidson for his hangover-prevention drink company, SEC filings show."

Demand for "hangover prevention" beverages must be increasing. Line up the investors.

Five stars on the video! Great editing, in particular; the pacing could not be better.

Karl Rove was the master of this kind of smear. Not only was he (almost certainly) behind the Dan Rather-National Guard stunt, but he had earlier ratfucked J.H. Hatfield's book Fortunate Son. There was nothing explosive in that Bush bio, aside from revealing Dubya as an unlikable jerk who had failed at everything he had attempted. Then an anonymous source (who Hatfield later revealed to be Rove) confirmed Bush had been busted for coke. It became the big takeaway from the book. When it was revealed that Hatfield was once a convicted felon, the book was quickly recalled by publisher St. Martin's - and before it disappeared from the shelves, the talking point became that the book was totally discredited, despite being well researched otherwise.
And this is why I don't follow Marcy Wheeler. No problem with those who do. But she posits these too-clever-by-a-half theories that seem to serve no purpose other than trying to show how contrarian she is. She was late on believing the Russian conspiracy which for an ordinary person is no crime. But given that she's part of the intel and espionage world, her stubborn refusal to admit it hurt her credibility.

In part, this is because she is weirdly obsessed with the Steele Dossier. In the grand scheme of things, it's just not very important. It's a raw intel document that is one of many pieces of evidence used for the investigation. It's also a cudgel used by Trump to try to discredit the investigation which has largely been unsuccessful. It just doesn't matter. Yet, Wheeler acts as though the Dossier is central to the investigation and the public's understanding of it when neither is the case. She has some weird blind spots that seem driven by her ego, and as a result, I just don't find a lot of value from her writing.

On a separate note, though it can be frustrating how little the Clinton's fight, for a prominent Democrat, they hit back the hardest. While it would be fair to point out this is more a statement about the Democrats than the Clintons, one of my beliefs about why the Republicans hate the Clintons so much is that they know exactly just how phony they are and are not willing to excuse it. Compare to Obama who always pretended that Republicans were at their core reasonable people who you can deal with. The Clintons don't treat Republicans that way and are willing to express that in their behavior. It's one big reason I admire the Clintons.
Just saw a deliciously creepy trailer for Haxan Witchcraft on YouTube. Wonderful special effects for the era. The New York Times reported that Woody Woodpecker cartoons have hidden Modern Art images. Now that Illuminati conspiracists know Woody Woodpecker is Illuminati, they will surely find depraved Jewish art in your videos as well.
Re: how Manafort owed so much money to Deripaska, I read he had lost D's money in a hedge fund operation he'd started up with D's and some others funds. Given how Manafort was, there is no reason to think the hedge fund was legit. Evidently Manafort went to ground and disappeared for a while at the time Deripaska sued him (in the Caymans?), only to brazenly show up in the open after Tom Barrack helped him get the Trump campaign gig (for no pay).

One way to 'disprove' the p-tape story would be to film it with actors or CGI effects that would be 'discovered' by confederates fed the tell-tale artifacts. As the 'kerning' 'expert' immediately appeared on the scene in the W/NG/Killian papers affair. I use scare quotes because it might be convincing as disproof to a lot of people, when it really might not disprove the story at all. I think our very blog author mentioned there were clumsy fake films being circulated, in what could have been a poison the well tactic, were they released.

They still may be, since such an audacious plan as hijacking the presidency would have fall-back planning in depth for contingencies, I'd think. Russian intelligence has a long history of devious, intricate feints and traps, triggered as required, and if the 'by way of deception' team (per Ostrovsky) was also involved, well...


Glad you are well and productive. I will read anything you write, but trump 's women? What would be the angle?. The big mystery ,to me, worth investigating is why democrats are so cowardly and ineffective against Rs. Why they cave in whenever they were bullied by them. What are they holding over their heads to make them this way. I hate Bernie et al and every one who remotely supported them in the last election, but sometime I agree with them about the democratic party, some wrong there.
One common factor with the Obama campaign and the Trump campaign, both, possibly because they were tight with money, ended up giving opportunities to newbies who took the opportunities and ran with them. For Obama, it was his speech writer. For Trump, it was the gentleman who started doing web pages for a couple of Trump's clients and eventually was asked to run Trump's ad campaign. He ended up making targeted facebook ads down the to individual actual facebook account/geographical level.

Hillary Clinton TWICE went with the establishment. In 2008 there were complaints that the younger money had no room at the table so to speak because many of Bill Clinton's supporters were already there, so they went to Obama. In 2016, Hillary Clinton had a chance to spread hundreds of millions of dollars of campaign money to newbies to make target ads for all 50 states, instead she went Hollywood with dramatic voice overs and kept running the same ads over and over.

Now add in the pretentiousness of using DNC servers to make inappropriate comments, insensitive comments, and we see a picture where HIllary Clinton relied too much the establishment and not enough on the newcomers. She made this mistake in 2008, doubled down in 2016. The crazy part, she could probably still run in 2020 if she did a physical makeover and got in shape. But how dare I say such a thing, as she has so brainwashed all of her supporters to not allow any discussion of how physically unfit she really is. And, why be that way anyways? Why would any political leader want to be physically unfit? Why?

Hillary Clinton is apparently wearing some type of additional support over her upper body. Maybe it is a bullet proof vest? Maybe it is to deal with a deteriorating body. Hillary Clinton has become fixated on she should have won rather than showing the world we would have been better off with her. At some point, no matter what the popular vote was, losing over 90% of the geographical vote, as she did, is not something to be proud of.
I have a pretty good track record at assessing things. Just for kicks I would check out what the requirements are for entering the Academy Awards in the Short Film division and Short Documentary division. Get your video aired in some theatre a certain amount of weeks in a row and I think it becomes eligible. Your Voice over was surprisingly fast, but clear.
Thanks, Alessandro. Actually, I've been there and done that, back in the 1980s. I don't know how things work nowadays, but back then Academy rules stated that a short film had to run for one week in Los Angeles.

In actual practice, all the short filmmakers glommed onto a crummy four-screen theater in Santa Monica -- I forget the name, but it was near the ocean -- which was willing to run these movies AFTER the final screening of a normal attraction, in the smallest of the four theaters. These after-midnight screenings were totally unadvertised, so the only people who watched or even knew of them were friends of the film-makers.

Actually, there were a few members of the general audience who were hip to this practice, and they would check out that particular theater to see if any shorts were screening. The theater's management turned a blind eye to theater-hopping after midnight.

A couple of my friends went through this process. Great fun. You got to watch your five-minute 16mm masterpiece projected in a "real" movie theater. And the owner of the theater got to sell tickets to the movie-maker's friends, family and crew members. It probably added up to an extra thirty-or-so ticket sales each week.

I'm not in L.A. anymore, so this isn't for me.

People seem to like videos with rapid-fire narration. I don't talk that way normally.
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