17 February 2018

Mueller Misdirection About Russia Collusion

Last Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted of 13 Russian nationals for attempting to change the outcome of the presidential election.

The indictment served two seemingly contradictory purposes.

On the one hand, it appeared to exonerate Trump campaign from wilful collusion with Russia.
"Some defendants, posing as US persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign and with other political activists to seek to co-ordinate political activities."
Rod Rosenstein added that there was no such allegation in the indictment.

On the other hand, it firmly established that Russia did intervene in the American electoral process. This disproved Trump's claim that Russian intervention was a hoax. The indictment detailed the efforts, the substantial sums of money spent (over a million dollars a month) and the names and activities of the individuals and organizations involved.

Trump can longer call this "fake news."

What is interesting about the indictment is the fact that the inquiry continues. Normally, it should have stopped here with Russia connection divulged and those responsible named.

But that is not the case. Mueller is moving full steam ahead.

That's why I think it is a misdirection.

What this does is to give both sides something to be happy about and relieves the pressure on the Special Counsel.

The calculation is that Trump will feel vindicated and stop plotting about how to fire Mueller.

I expect Trump to tweet about FBI's Florida school shooting blunder or other daily minutiae.

In fact, he might feel confident enough to be interviewed by Mueller.

But from the beginning what Mueller was investigating was money laundering and financial fraud. As Steve Bannon famously put it in Fire and Fury:
“This is about money laundering. Mueller chose Weissmann and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to f***ing Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner ... It’s as plain as a hair on your face ... They’re going to crack Don Jr like an egg on national TV.”
In other words, the indictment is a clever misdirection.

Wait for the other shoe to drop.

16 February 2018

The Trump - Corporate Media Love Affair

Donald Trump's long-time attorney Michael Cohen made a statement a couple of days ago and acknowledged that he paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket.

He claimed that no one reimbursed him. He just paid off Stormy Daniels out of the goodness of his heart.

Do you know what happened after Cohen's annoucement? Nothing.

Interestingly, this story was known before the election. No news outlet published it.
The adult-film actress was on the radar of a number of mainstream news outlets in the waning days of the presidential campaign. Reporters from ABC, Fox News, The Daily Beast and Slate.com were pursuing a potentially explosive story: that Daniels had allegedly had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006, only months after Trump's wife, Melania, had given birth to their son, Barron. 
Yet no one went with the story.
The company that owns the National Enquirer, a backer of Donald Trump, agreed to pay $150,000 to a former Playboy centerfold model for her story of an affair a decade ago with the Republican presidential nominee, but then didn’t publish it, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and people familiar with the matter.
Quashing stories that way is known in the tabloid world as “catch and kill.”
That's your liberal media.

The same outlets Trumpkins believe are hyper-critical of their beloved Orange Man.

Next time someone asks you how could Trump be elected president tell them the corporate media gave the man almost $5 billion worth of free media with CNN providing $2 billion of it by itself.
The real estate magnate got $4.96 billion in free earned media in the year leading up to the presidential election, according to data from tracking firm mediaQuant. He received $5.6 billion throughout the entirety of his campaign, more than Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio combined.

Indeed, imagine.

15 February 2018

On Fire and Fury and Trump's Reported Senility

I just finished reading Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury. It is a breezy, gossipy book.

Until I picked it up, I was convinced that Donald Trump was going senile before our own eyes. Now I am not so sure.

Don't get me wrong. the senility charge is a well substantiated one.

It is clear that Trump has a limited vocabulary, he uses a lot of placeholder words and keeps repeating himself.

Boston Globe used the Flesch-Kincaid readability to to determine that Trump's vocabulary was the same as a fourth grade student.

He also has behavioral problems like attacking people viciously, or defending contradictory positions consecutively. His aggression is compounded by overt signs of paranoia. All of which would be sufficient for a mental health professional to diagnose him with some form of dementia.

In fact, 35 mental health professionals overlooked the Goldwater Rule and published an open letter in New York Times arguing that Trump was "incapable of serving safely as president."
“Mr Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behaviour suggest a profound inability to empathise. 
“Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them [journalists, scientists]. 
“In a powerful leader, these attacks are likely to increase, as his personal myth of greatness appears to be confirmed. We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.”
In the same vein, the great Charles Pearce ran a piece in Esquire in which he maintained that Trump's interview with the New York Times showed a man in cognitive decline. He used several rambling quotes to bolster his claim, one of which was this:
I’m always moving. I’m moving in both directions. We have to get rid of chainlike immigration, we have to get rid of the chain. The chain is the last guy that killed. … [Talking with guests.] … The last guy that killed the eight people. … [Inaudible.] … So badly wounded people. … Twenty-two people came in through chain migration. Chain migration and the lottery system. They have a lottery in these countries. They take the worst people in the country, they put ‘em into the lottery, then they have a handful of bad, worse ones, and they put them out. ‘Oh, these are the people the United States. …” … We’re gonna get rid of the lottery, and by the way, the Democrats agree with me on that. On chain migration, they pretty much agree with me. 
A group of mental health are experts formed an organization called "Duty to Warn" and published a book entitled "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President." It became a New York Times bestseller.

Health and medicine portal STATNews took a different approach. When Trump responded to a question with this 
“ … there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself — and the Russians, zero.”
they decided to undertake a comparative review.
STAT therefore asked experts in neurolinguistics and cognitive assessment, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists, to compare Trump’s speech from decades ago to that in 2017; they all agreed there had been a deterioration, and some said it could reflect changes in the health of Trump’s brain.
The experts found that Trump came across quite sophisticated in his previous interviews.
In interviews Trump gave in the 1980s and 1990s (with Tom Brokaw, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Charlie Rose, and others), he spoke articulately, used sophisticated vocabulary, inserted dependent clauses into his sentences without losing his train of thought, and strung together sentences into a polished paragraph, which — and this is no mean feat — would have scanned just fine in print. 
Currently, this is how he talks:
“People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall, my base really wants it — you’ve been to many of the rallies. OK, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. My base, which is a big base; I think my base is 45 percent. You know, it’s funny. The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the Electoral College. Big, big, big advantage. … The Electoral College is very difficult for a Republican to win, and I will tell you, the people want to see it. They want to see the wall.”
Solid arguments, all. So why you doubt the senility argument you may ask.

The incidents mentioned in the book opened up the possibility that Trump's senility might be just the bored stupidity of a spoiled rich guy who happens to have the attention span of a fruit fly.

There may be a cognitive decline but it is also possible that the man who went bankrupt six times while running casinos might just be simply stupid.

Wolff says that he never reads anything, he doesn't listen to people ("they are boring") and he is convinced he knows best and he is the most intelligent person in the room.

He firmly believes that he can order the CIA and FBI around and fire as many agency heads as he pleases.

For instance, he was told in no uncertain terms -something I mentioned many times- that feuding with intelligence agencies is a death wish and he should bury the hatchet. To that effect he was sent to the CIA with a carefully crafted speech containing serious groveling and flattery.

Instead this is what he said to an astonished crowd of agents:
“I know a lot about West Point, I’m a person who very strongly believes in academics. Every time I say I had an uncle who was a great professor at MIT for 35 years, who did a fantastic job in so many ways academically—he was an academic genius—and then they say, Is Donald Trump an intellectual? Trust me, I’m like a smart person.”
“You know when I was young. Of course I feel young—I feel like I was 30 . . . 35 . . . 39 . . . . Somebody said, Are you young? I said, I think I’m young. I was stopping in the final months of the campaign, four stops, five stops, seven stops—speeches, speeches in front of twenty-five, thirty thousand people . . . fifteen, nineteen thousand. I feel young—I think we’re all so young. When I was young we were always winning things in this country. We’d win with trade, we’d win with wars—at a certain age I remembering hearing from one of my instructors, the United States has never lost a war. And then, after that, it’s like we haven’t won anything. You know the old expression, to the victor belongs the spoils? You remember I always say, keep the oil.”
“I wasn’t a fan of Iraq, I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you when we were in we got out wrong and I always said in addition to that keep the oil. Now I said it for economic reasons, but if you think about it, Mike”—he called out across the room, addressing the soon-to-be director—“if we kept the oil we wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place, so that’s why we should have kept the oil. But okay—maybe you’ll have another chance—but the fact is we should have kept the oil.”
“The reason you are my first stop, as you know I have a running war with the media, they are among the most dishonest human beings on earth, and they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community and I just want to let you know the reason you’re the number one stop is exactly the opposite, exactly, and they understand that. I was explaining about the numbers. We did, we did a thing yesterday at the speech. Did everybody like the speech? You had to like it. But we had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field and I say, Wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out—the field was—it looked like a million, million and half people. They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there. And they said Donald Trump did not draw well and I said it was almost raining, the rain should have scared them away, but God looked down and said we’re not going to let it rain on your speech and in fact when I first started I said, Oooh no, first line I got hit by a couple of drops, and I said, Oh this is too bad, but we’ll go right through it, the truth is it stopped immediately. . . .”
“. . . and then it became really sunny and I walked off and it poured right after I left. It poured but we have something amazing because—honestly it looked like a million, million and a half people, whatever it was it was, but it went all the way back to the Washington Monument and by mistake I get this network and it showed an empty field and it said we  drew two hundred fifty thousand people. Now that’s not bad, but it’s a lie. . . . And we had another one yesterday which was interesting. In the Oval Office there’s a beautiful statue of Dr. Martin Luther King and I also happen to like Churchill—Winston Churchill—I think most of us like Churchill, doesn’t come from our country but had a lot to do with it, helped us, real ally, and as you know the Churchill statue was taken out. . . . So a reporter for Time magazine and I have been on the cover like fourteen or fifteen times. I think I have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine. Like if Tom Brady is on the cover it’s one time because he won the Super Bowl or something. I’ve been on fifteen times this year. I don’t think, Mike, that’s a record that can ever be broken, do you agree with that . . . . What do you think?”
“But I will say that they said it was very interesting that ‘Donald Trump took down the bust, the statue, of Dr. Martin Luther King,’ and it was right there, there was a cameraman that was in front of it. So Zeke . . . Zeke . . . from Time magazine . . . writes a story that I took it down. I would never do that. I have great respect for Dr. Martin Luther King. But this is how dishonest the media is. Now big story, but the retraction was like this”—he indicated ever-so-small with his fingers. “Is it a line or do they even bother putting it in? I only like to say I love honesty, I like honest reporting. I will tell you, final time, although I will say it when you let in your thousands of other people who have been trying to come in, because I am coming back, we may have to get you a larger room, we may have to get you a larger room and maybe, maybe, it will be built by somebody that knows how to build and we won’t have columns. You understand that? We get rid of the columns, but you know I just wanted to say that I love you, I respect you, there’s nobody I respect more. You do a fantastic job and we’re going to start winning again, and you’re going to be leading the charge, so thank you all very much.”
Ever since then incriminating leaks never stopped.

To me that sounds more like arrogant stupidity than early onset Alzheimer's.

Though I am not a doctor, nor did I play one on TV.

13 February 2018

The #MeToo Movement: IOKIYAR Edition

Apparently, Steve Bannon, the white nationalist and former "wet nurse for a seventy-one-year-old" is convinced that the #MeToo movement will bring the patriarchy to its knees.

While watching the Golden Globes he blurted out this:
“It’s a Cromwell moment!” Bannon said. “It’s even more powerful than populism. It’s deeper. It’s primal. It’s elemental. The long black dresses and all that—this is the Puritans. It’s anti-patriarchy.”
#MeToo is a very important and historic movement but I am convinced that it will not have the same effect on the right.

You can abuse and assault women and It's OK If You're A Republican (IOKIYAR).

Take the case of Rob Porter, the White House Staff Secretary. He physically assaulted both his ex wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby, and they both mentioned it to the FBI during his security clearance investigations.

They reported the abuse contemporaneously to their church elders. They called the police.

Willoughby even filed for a protective order. She also wrote a blog post (under her name) detailing the abuse.
The first time he called me a "fucking bitch" was on our honeymoon. (I found out years later he had kicked his first wife on theirs.) A month later he physically prevented me from leaving the house. Less than two months after that, I filed a protective order with the police because he punched in the glass on our front door while I was locked inside. We bought a house to make up for it. Just after our one year anniversary, he pulled me, naked and dripping, from the shower to yell at me.
That's a picture of his first wife Colbie Holderness, her black eye is courtesy of Rob Porter.

What is interesting is that most of the senior people at the White House knew.
According to Politico, John Kelly, Donald Trump’s chief of staff and Porter’s boss, also knew of the 2010 protective order against Porter. Don McGahn, the White House counsel, also knew, according to Politico, because in recent weeks a third woman, an ex-girlfriend of Porter’s who also works in the Trump administration, told him that Porter had abused her and his two ex-wives.         
In fact, the FBI, being unable to give him full security clearance because of these incidents, provided him with an interim one.

But what is even more telling is the reaction of White House senior figures once the story broke. Chief of Staff John Kelly issued this statement:
“Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidant, and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”
When the Intercept published Holderness' black eye picture this was Kelly's reaction:
I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There is no place for domestic violence in our society. I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know since becoming Chief of Staff, and believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation. I accepted his resignation earlier today, and will ensure a swift and orderly transition.
What he is saying is that those lying bitches destroyed a fine man's reputation and he has every right to defend himself.

And he is standing by his previous comments.

In case, you assume this was an isolated reaction, this is how Orrin Hatch, Porter's former boss, handled it.
It’s incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man. Shame on any publication that would print this—and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man’s good name.
Here, there is no longer an insinuation about lying and character assassination. It is a full frontal attack on these women.

When Porter resigned after Holderness' picture was published this is what Hatch said.
I am heartbroken by today's allegations. In every interaction I've had with Rob, he has been courteous, professional, and respectful. My staff loved him and he was a trusted advisor. I do not know the details of Rob's personal life. Domestic violence in any form is abhorrent. I am praying for Rob and those involved.
Dahlia Lithwick put it perfectly:
Note that the central moral issue was no longer the scurrilous women who must have lied to a slanderous press, but Hatch’s own heartbreak. He didn’t apologize to the women he had maligned hours earlier, and it’s not entirely clear if they are part of the group of people for whom Hatch is praying. 
Right after Porter's resignation, a White House speech writer by the name of David Sorensen had to quit as well as the Washington Post revealed his history of abuse with his ex-wife Jessica Corbett.
She said that on separate occasions her former husband ran a car over her foot, threw her against a wall and extinguished a cigarette on her hand.
Once again, the FBI knew because Corbett told them about the abuse during a background check. And no one cared once again.

Trump's reaction to all this, you ask?

Well, the man who called for the resignation of Al Franken and John Conyers and wanted Hillary Clinton locked up without due process suddenly discovered "due process."
What about female Trumpkins?

They stand by him one hundred percent. Read the whole interview.

Or better yet, watch the clip.

This is a man who was accused of sexual assault and misconduct by at least 22 women.

This is a man who bragged on tape about "grabbing pussy" as a way of introducing himself.

And this was the female Trumpkin reaction.

So I am all for #MeToo but I also know that IOKIYAR is too powerful a forcefield for conservative women.

26 January 2018

About Trump Ordering The Firing of Mueller

Last December, I pondered the question of whether Trump would fire Robert Mueller. And my answer was that, the Trump we know would try to get rid of Mueller.

That was because he knew Mueller was looking into his financial shenanigans and it was a matter of time that he would corner him and his family. Collusion or obstruction of justice are not easily provable crimes for a politician like Trump.

But money laundering for Russian criminals is.

Why not fire Mueller since Trump knew the GOP would never turn against him.

As for his political base, the Trumpkins, encouraged by Fox and Friends, would react with delighted screams of "fake news" upon witnessing the liberal horror.

And the media would only book and quote Republican talking heads who would repeat the same phony talking points until everyone sees them as credible.

But I noted that, if that happened, nothing in US politics would be the same again.

It turns out that I was on the right track. But I missed the timeline. The Orange Man was way ahead of me. He ordered the firing of Robert Mueller in Apprentice style last June.

According to the New York Times:
President Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, according to four people told of the matter, but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive.
Incidentally, the White House counsel who threatened to resign, Donald McGahn was involved in all of Trump's previous decisions, including the firing of Comey. He also tried to dissuade Jeff Beauregard Sessions, the racist Southern leprechaun, from recusing himself in the Russia inquiry.

So, he is not a shrinking violet or a principled lawyer defending the Constitution.

But even he realized that, in this case, firing Mueller could have catastrophic consequences for the American political system.

From Trump on, no president could ever be investigated by Congress. All they had to do is to fire all special counsels until they found a perfect stooge.

And the fact that Don McGahn had threatened to resign to save the presidency is telling you something about the reckless abandon with which the Orange Man is presidenting.

23 January 2018

Why Turkey's Incursion Into Afrin Is Very Risky

The Turkish military operation to invade the Kurdish enclave Afrin hides a complicated maneuvering by the major players in Syria.

And Turkey might end up regretting this decision.

While President Erdogan has been itching to do something about Syrian Kurds and the  Democratic Union Party or PYD, an organization closely associated with Turkey's PKK or Kurdistan Workers Party it never got permission to attack them.

That's because PYD's military wing YPG (People's Protection Units) has proved itself very useful to both the Americans and Russians.

They fought ISIS in the region east of Euphrates in coordination with the Americans and proved themselves a formidable military force.

They worked closely with Russians on the other side of the river.

In fact, just as the Americans placed observers among eastern troops Russians deployed their own observers in the west to protect YPG from Turkish artillery.

What is interesting is that, supposedly, the incursion is a reaction to a US announcement regarding the formation of a 30,000-strong Border Defense Force to patrol the Syria-Turkey border.

The problem with this casus belli is that, currently, there are only 230 militiamen out of the proposed 30,000. It does not exist.

Moreover, according the Rex Tillerson, The Border Defense Force was never meant to patrol Turkish border and their primary role was to block the escape routes of ISIS fighters. But this was never made clear in the original announcement.

An attack of this kind against an entrenched adversary requires close air support and without one casualties would skyrocket as they did in the previous Euphrates Shield operation to take Al-Bab.

Syrian airspace is controlled and defended by Russia. Without their permission Turkish Air Force could not cross the border.

Considering this, if I were to guess, I would suggest that the annpuncement was a deliberate move by Pentagon to force Putin to make a choice between Turkey and Syrian Kurds.

If Russia opened Syrian airspace, Kurds would feel betrayed and might limit their cooperation with them in the future.

If Russia refused permission, Turkey would feel more isolated and might reconsider its rapprochement policy with Russia, including the purchase of S400 missile systems.

Makes sense.

However, if the US made the bogus border troop announcement to put Putin in a bind they failed to achieve their goal.

From Putin's perspective, it is a win-win situation.

Remember that Putin wants a unified Syria under al-Assad. He is the kingmaker and Assad is the king.

I am pretty sure that he gave a limited permission to Turkey that could be revoked at any time. He would allow just Afrin and he would ask for it to be given to Assad.

And Manbij, fuhgettaboutit.

From where Putin stood, it looked like an attack on Afrin might convince the Turkish-backed rebels who controlled parts of Idlib and the all important Abu Dhuhour military airport to send reinforcements to Afrin which then would allow the Syrian troops to grab the base.

Both predictions held.

A green light to Turkey would also signal to the Kurds that Russia is the "big daddy" in the region.

There are reports that Russia asked the Kurds to let the Syrian army back into Afrin and offered to stop the Turkish attack in that case. The Kurds made a counter-offer which would give the administration to the government but maintain the security in Kurdish hands.

Damascus refused.

Hence the permission.

There is also the bonus that Russia's permission would pull Turkey even closer to Russia's sphere of influence and drive a wedge between Nato and Turkey. And especially between the US and Turkey.

This is a speculation but I think what might even be more interesting for Putin is the possibility that the operation might prove to be a disaster for Turkey if its weak and demoralized army cannot pull off a decisive victory.

Observers point out that YPG is a battle hardened and well equipped army and they had two years to create defensive positions around Afrin.

Nato is already on record about the weakening of the Turkish army and its utility to the alliance. This could lead to some questioning and Erdogan, known for his blustery style, might simply pull Turkey out of Nato.

This is Putin's wet dream.

This doesn't look good for Turkey.

And I didn't even mention Iran.

04 January 2018

Money Laundering Is What Will Take Trump Down

My regular readers will remember that from the beginning I maintained that impeachment or Cabinet mutiny (Amendment 25) are dead ends and this is not how the Trump presidency will end.

I consistently argued that his financial shenanigans and Russian money laundering will lead to his demise.

And if Mueller doesn't get to them, intelligence agencies will certainly leak the information to corporate media.

So firing him will not help.

I now have corroboration. 

According to Michael Wolff:
Bannon reportedly said the Justice Department investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Moscow would focus on money laundering, adding: "They're going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV."
I would pay good money to see that.

But I don't think Don Junior is the target or the egg to be cracked.

That will be the Orange Man.

And they will crack open his "Just For Men" colored and scalp reduced and carefully constructed Trumpian Coif for the amazement of Trumpkins.

I am also relishing the nasty feud between a racist white nationalist and a racist buffoon.

Kudos the Daily News for this cover.

In case you don't know,
"Cuck" is a pejorative term used by the so-called alt-right for a man who has no self-respect, or more broadly for politically liberal males.