Sunday, June 3, 2018

Tribe Beats Cult

Referring again to the recent New York Times article on Ben Rhodes and Obama. Here are the first few sentences again. I've taken the editorial liberty to combine them into a single paragraph. One thing I noted when reading the Times article is how short the paragraphs are. I counted the sentences and determined that the average paragraph length was 2.25 sentences. Liberals believe themselves to be quite sophisticated, and yet the editorial staff at the premier liberal paper doesn't believe their reader have the attention span to manage much more than two sentences at a time.
Riding in a motorcade in Lima, Peru, shortly after the 2016 election, President Barack Obama was struggling to understand Donald J. Trump’s victory. “What if we were wrong?” he asked aides riding with him in the armored presidential limousine. He had read a column asserting that liberals had forgotten how important identity was to people and had promoted an empty cosmopolitan globalism that made many feel left behind. “Maybe we pushed too far,” Mr. Obama said. “Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe.
The defining characteristics displayed in that article were:

Hubris. These people's worlds are defined by their blind allegiance to progressivism and of their own moral certainty. They are so convinced of their righteousness that anyone working against them must be inherently evil. That is sort of the the character basis for all supervillains. (The other be narcissistic injury, but the two can go in hand.) The relevant quote I've heard is that liberals have such profound love for man in general that they are able to justify great tyranny and violence against man in particular.

Impotence. Obama throws his hands in the air and laments, "There was nothing I could do, I just too far ahead of my time."

Naivete. Most entertaining is how sideswiped they all were at Trump's victory. They were all as certain in Hillary's inevitable victory as they are in their belief that diversity = strength. There apparently is an HBO documentary of Obama's last year that captured Ben Rhodes as completely speechless after the election outcome was announced. That is one of Obama's key advisors - who crafted the Iran deal - so jolted by reality that he couldn't talk.

Delusion. Of course there is the delusion that Obama left a strong foreign policy legacy, which was discussed in the last post. But there is also delusion in this opening paragraph. He had read a column asserting that liberals had forgotten how important identity was to people [...]. Liberals, who are completely obsessed with identity, who think about identity night and day more than anything else, forgot it was important to people? These people can't see their own hand in front their face for the fog of their own delusions - it's no wonder they're constantly surprised at reality as it unfolds.

Self-reflection.  Much of the focus is on how Obama's team could have done things differently. A little self-reflection isn't a bad thing. Is it a virtue? They say patience is a virtue, but what if you found out I was patiently waiting for the best time to kill you? Maybe it's not so simple after all. These people seem to be chronically self-reflecting. (Which is also something that narcissists do.) This is another facet where Obama and Trump could not be more different. Obama likes to engage in cerebral self-reflection, where he measures his own actions against his values (of which he is certain are divine). Do you think Trump sits around self-reflecting? I'd reckon he does very little of that. Instead, he acts on the world and carefully scrutinizes for feedback. He doesn't steer himself by personal self-reflection, but by seeing himself reflected by the world.

Rationale. Another one that seems like it shouldn't be that bad. What's wrong with rationale? And isn't rationale just exactly what this blog is always pining for - and complaining about when it's in short supply? Yes, it is, but you have to be careful with rationale. When using logic you must always work from facts & observations towards conclusions. We use the term rationalization when someone uses sounds logic but pares away the context until the conclusion matches the desired outcome.

These characteristics culminated in the electoral loss of Obama anointed successor, which has led to the erosion of most of Obama's legacy in less than 18 months. He dismisses it as "people just want to fall back in to their tribe." Or in other words, people want something out of life besides what the author aptly terms as empty cosmopolitan globalism. Well, he must be correct here. Tribe means culture, family, tradition, language, race, nation...all the things that give people meaning. Cosmopolitan globalism gives people meaning too, but at the cost of all the other things. She is a jealous lover. She won't tolerate national pride or traditional values. Obama most clearly demarked his loyalties when he quipped, "you didn't build that." There is no such thing as national heritage with him; just a sea of interchangeable individuals. Any half-wit thug in a faraway cesspool has just as much claim to Western civilization as you do.

Tribe beats cult in the long-run. Tribe has staying power, cult peters out. In tribe you are encouraged to raise healthy & strong children. In cult its okay to be a back-alley crack whore and die of AIDS in your 30s. (West Hollywood just awarded a ceremonial key to the city to a prostitute.) Darwinian forces favor tribe, and scorn cult. Liberals, so embubbled by their own virtual supremacy, can't even bring themselves to ask the most obvious Darwinian questions - especially for a group that like to use Darwin to rub in in Christians noses. Questions like Why do successful societies normally implement religious systems, matrimony, scorn for homosexuality, self-reliance, delayed sexuality, etc. Best as I can tell, it's not possible to be both a Darwinist and a liberal, at least not the type obsessed with notions of equality...which I think may be all of them. The contradictions are brutal. Rake them over the coals for it every chance you get. If we do our jobs they'll be renouncing Darwin by the end of the year!

If tribe beats cult, then why is there ever cult at all? It should just be tribe all the time. Well, tribe isn't infallible, it is flawed for all the ways that jump to mind with we think of tribalism. Mostly it's the instability and distraction caused by constant sectarian power struggles. So what beats tribe? Democracy does, to use the term loosely. In democracy there is the contract that (1) political struggles will be resolved through formal, non-violent processes, and (2) people will abide by the results of the process. Democracy is like taking a head count to see who would have won the war, and accepting the outcome and sparing the tremendous internal damage that civil wars bring. Evolutionarily speaking, it's sound. A nation that weakens itself through internecine warfare may end up dominated by an outside power. It's the same reason why, in the animal kingdom, contests over territory don't normally lead to serious injury.

So tribe beats cult, but democracy beats tribe. So it's democracy then, right? The rub is that cult beats democracy. In democracy, you lie, cheat, and steal to get the majority vote. Democracy only really works as long as the people mostly work in good faith, but eventually they won't do that. Liberals have found the best way to get the vote is to constantly expand the electorate and promise the newcomers wealth taken from the old guard, just so long as they can get power. Now the left wants completely open borders, so that any destitute soul can show up and vote D and get social welfare. The cult must also brainwash a large portion of the electorate to believe that what they are doing is virtuous. For instance, rich white liberals, or working class blacks, don't benefit at all from liberal policies, but they must be convinced that they do, or that it is the morally acceptable choice.

The result is a perversion of the democratic underpinning. In late democracy, the winners of elections are not who the winners of battle would be. The fittest 40% could easily subdue the inept 60% on the battlefield, but not at the ballot box. Once the cult pits the haves against the have nots, the democratic contract decays.

What the cult does to a nation is sort of what happens in a hostile corporate takeover. The successful brand name is taken, and profits can be made by marketing with that name, but ruthlessly cutting quality. Eventually the brand loses its reputation and dies. Similarly, the cult does kill the host, eventually. But that's fine...that's how diseases work after all.

People want to fall back to their tribe, says Obama. If only he spent as much time reflecting on the plights of others as he does reflecting on himself. Eventually the democracy dies, and all that's left is tribe.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

How Trump’s Election Shook Obama: ‘What if We Were Wrong?’

After Trump took office, I had hoped that I would never have to hear about Barrack Hussein Obama ever again. As it turns out, the further he slips from relevancy, the more enjoyable I find him. The New York Times, covering Ben Rhodes upcoming book in an article titled How Trump’s Election Shook Obama: ‘What if We Were Wrong?’ is so full of spin and hubris that the only way to fully summarize it is to go line by line and comment as necessary.

WASHINGTON — Riding in a motorcade in Lima, Peru, shortly after the 2016 election, President Barack Obama was struggling to understand Donald J. Trump’s victory. [First sentence: Obama the great sage truly didn't see it coming.]

“What if we were wrong?” he asked aides riding with him in the armored presidential limousine.
He had read a column asserting that liberals had forgotten how important identity was to people and had promoted an empty cosmopolitan globalism that made many feel left behind. “Maybe we pushed too far,” Mr. Obama said. “Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe.” [Damn backwards rubes need to get out of their tribes and into the progressive era, where you must say exactly what the PC mafia expect you to say, otherwise you are a deplorable bigot.]

His aides reassured him that he still would have won had he been able to run for another term and that the next generation had more in common with him than with Mr. Trump. [They sought to reassure him with a hypothetical. Great.] Mr. Obama, the first black man elected president, [After 8 years of presidency, he's still best known as "the black guy."] did not seem convinced. “Sometimes I wonder whether I was 10 or 20 years too early,” he said. [Imagine the hubris necessary to claim - a year after it's conclusion, that your tenure was just ahead of its time.]

In the weeks after Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Obama went through multiple emotional stages, [Just as we'd expect from the first feminine president.] according to a new book by his longtime adviser Benjamin J. Rhodes. At times, the departing president took the long view, at other points, he flashed anger. He called Mr. Trump a “cartoon” figure who cared more about his crowd sizes than any particular policy. [They can never acknowledge how brilliant Trump is. Which is why I already have money down on his re-election.] And he expressed rare self-doubt, wondering whether he had misjudged his own influence on American history.

Set to be published next week by Random House, Mr. Rhodes’s memoir, “The World as It Is,” [Again with the hubris just off the charts.] offers a peek into Mr. Obama’s tightly sealed inner sanctum from the perspective of one of the few people who saw him up close through all eight years of his presidency. Few moments shook Mr. Obama more than the decision by voters to replace him with a candidate who had questioned his very birth [certificate].

Mr. Rhodes served as Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser through some of the most consequential points of his presidency, including decisions to authorize the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, send more troops to Afghanistan, pull most troops out of Iraq, restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, seal a nuclear agreement with Iran, intervene militarily in Libya and refuse to intervene militarily in Syria. [Jesus you'd have to have amnesia to read the Times. Obama and Kerry both lobbied for weeks to go to war with Iran, but failed to garner support domestically or in Europe. So they engaged in a covert war against Assad by funding radical Islamic insurgents.] 

But his book offers a new window, if only slightly cracked open, into the 44th president’s handling of Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election to help Mr. Trump get elected and the aftermath.
In handing over power to someone determined to tear down all he had accomplished, Mr. Obama alluded to “The Godfather” mafia movie: “I feel like Michael Corleone. I almost got out.” [Obama is just so gangster.] 

Mr. Rhodes describes the reaction of foreign leaders. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan apologized for breaching protocol by meeting with Mr. Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan after the election. Mr. Obama urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada to take on a more vocal role defending the values they shared. [The Canadian boy wonder has done a fine job of that.]

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told Mr. Obama that she felt more obliged to run for another term because of Mr. Trump’s election to defend the liberal international order. When they parted for the final time, Ms. Merkel had a single tear in her eye. [Seeing Angela Merkel cry because Trump got elected would bring me more joy than a pool full of puppies.] “She’s all alone,” Mr. Obama noted. [She's all alone, save for her hyperliberal counterparts in Sweden, France, Britain, Ireland, the EU, New Zealand, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland...]

And yet despite criticism even from former advisers to Mr. Obama, Mr. Rhodes offers little sense that the former president thought he could have done more to counter Russian involvement in the election. Mr. Obama had authorized a statement to be issued by intelligence agency leaders a month before the election warning of Russian interference, but was thwarted from doing more because Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, refused to go along with a bipartisan statement. [There's always a Republican to blame. Of course, McConnell had nothing to do with the President's ability to direct the executive branch in response to a foreign threat to our democratic process. We've noted on this blog that Trump likes to set up situations where he wins either way. However it goes, his upside still outweighs his downside. Notice Obama's ability to do the opposite. In the one case, Russia didn't corrupt the outcome of our political process, in which case Obama and all his Democrat allies are liars of the highest order. In the other case, he is the most limp-wristed executive in world history. Listen to what he's saying. He issued a statement! And if it weren't for those meddling Republicans, he could have issued an even stronger statement. Rhodes is making a strong case that Obama was feckless to the extreme.]

Mr. Rhodes called Mr. McConnell’s refusal “staggeringly partisan and unpatriotic.” But Mr. Obama, whose Supreme Court nomination had been blocked by Mr. McConnell for months, seemed less surprised.

“What else did you expect from McConnell?” he asked. “He won’t even give us a hearing on Merrick Garland.” [I never understood why Democrats didn't push back on that harder than they did. Clearly Obama felt powerless about it.]

Still, in preparatory sessions before meetings with the news media before the election, aides pressed Mr. Obama to respond to criticism that he should speak out more about Russian meddling. “I talk about it every time I’m asked,” he responded. “What else are we going to do? We’ve warned folks.” [Can you imagine if that man ever had to defend the country from an actual military threat? Well, I warned folks...]

He noted that Mr. Trump was already claiming that the election would be manipulated if Hillary Clinton won. “If I speak out more, he’ll just say it’s rigged,” Mr. Obama said. [Either way, Trump wins.]

Mr. Rhodes writes that neither he nor Mr. Obama knew at that time that there was an F.B.I. investigation into contacts between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia [this claim will almost certainly be disproven], despite Mr. Trump’s recent unsubstantiated claims [published by the Times] that the departing president placed a “spy” or multiple spies in his campaign.

Mr. Rhodes writes he did not learn about the F.B.I. investigation until after leaving office, and then from the news media. Mr. Obama did not impose sanctions on Russia in retaliation for the meddling before the election because he believed it might prompt Moscow into hacking into Election Day vote tabulations. [Obama could not punish Russia for alleged meddling out of fear of actual meddling.] Mr. Obama did impose sanctions after the election but Mr. Rhodes’s suggestion that the targets include President Vladimir V. Putin was rebuffed on the theory that such a move would go too far. [But statements were issued.]

Mr. Obama and his team were confident that Mrs. Clinton would win and, like much of the country, were shocked when she did not. “I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should have seen it coming,” Mr. Rhodes writes. “Because when you distilled it, stripped out the racism and misogyny, we’d run against Hillary eight years ago with the same message Trump had used: She’s part of a corrupt establishment that can’t be trusted to bring change.” [Nah, stick with the Russia story. It sounds better than, you know, agreeing with what Trump supporters have been saying the entire time.]

On election night, Mr. Obama spoke by telephone with Cody Keenan, his chief speechwriter, and Mr. Rhodes to figure out what he should say. Mr. Rhodes asked if he should offer reassurance to allies. “No, I don’t think that I’m the one to tell them that,” he said.

The next day, Mr. Obama focused on cheering up his despondent staff. At one point, he sent a message to Mr. Rhodes saying, “There are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the earth.”
But days later, Mr. Obama seemed more less sanguine. “I don’t know,” he told aides. “Maybe this is what people want. I’ve got the economy set up well for him. No facts. No consequences. They can just have a cartoon.”

He added that “we’re about to find out just how resilient our institutions are, at home and around the world.”

The day Mr. Obama hosted Mr. Trump at the White House after the election seemed surreal. Mr. Trump kept steering the conversation back to the size of his rallies, noting that he and Mr. Obama could draw big crowds, but Mrs. Clinton could not, Mr. Rhodes writes.

Afterward, Mr. Obama called a few aides to the Oval Office to ruminate on the encounter. “I’m trying to place him in American history,” he said. [Update: he's the cartoon who dismantled almost your entire legacy in about a year.]

“He peddles” bull, Mr. Rhodes answered. “That character has always been part of the American story. You can see it right back to some of the characters in Huckleberry Finn.”

“Maybe,” Mr. Obama answered, “that’s the best we can hope for.” [The best they could hope for was that Trump would renege on his campaign rhetoric as solidly as Obama had.]

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Social Media Just Got a Little More Interesting

In early March's post Anti-Trumpers May Destroy Social Media we mentioned a lawsuit pending in response to Donald Trump blocking users from his Twitter account. The verdict was that, while such a ruling would be wonderful for our interests, the case would likely be thrown out, especially since the account in question is Trump's personal (perhaps quasi-official) account, not the official @potus account. To my surprise -- and delight -- the court actually ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. They reasoned that Twitter is a public forum, thus blocking a user from commenting on Trump's tweets amounts to infringement of First Amendment rights. To quote the ruling (pdf):
This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, “block” a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States. The answer to both questions is no.

We hold that portions of the @realDonaldTrump account — the “interactive space” where Twitter users may directly engage with the content of the President’s tweets — are properly analyzed under the “public forum” doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court, that such space is a designated public forum, and that the blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment.
The ruling is almost everything we dreamed of. Almost, because it specifies "public official." We'd prefer it to include all political discourse, but this will work for now. And, just a word of caution before we proceed to get carried away with this...it will surely be contested. We still have some number of months to see how this settles. While I incorrectly predicted the outcome of the initial case, I have to stick by that inclination. I don't see how this ruling stands. Still, let's entertain the notion that it does stand. The implications are wonderful!

While liberals are ecstatic to get Drumpf anyway they can, the truth is that conservative voices are suppressed on social media forums, not those of liberals and Anti-Trumpers. So many conservatives have been banned by Twitter that it has driven a market for conservative social media, such as Gab. There is no equivalent market for liberal outcasts, because they are not censored for political speech. A court ruling to protect political speech in public forums is a huge windfall for the right. (And perhaps bad news for Gab founder Andrew Torba.) At the least, any person blocked by any public official may demand restoration, at the risk of a lawsuit backed by legal precedent. The reaction of the social media outlets will be predictable. They will ban users for attacking Democrats as violations of the user agreement, while allowing those attacking Republicans to remain. That's what they're already doing. But this is now out of the hands of the corporate SJWs. It is an issue for the courts. In fact, all a user would have to do is acquire a list of the commentary that users make against Trump (the court pretends it is expressed political views, but we all they were blocked for derogatory language), use it verbatim against some Democrat official, wait to be banned, and then sue for violation of First Amendment rights. The courts are pozzed, but they are far more likely to give a fair ruling than the Silicon Valley proletariat. Let the left gloat over this outcome, but we really really want to see the ruling upheld.

Even more significant than declaring that public officials must allow all insults to remain attached to their social media presence, they categorize Twitter as a public forum. Well, not all of Twitter. They decree that "portions of the @realDonaldTrump account" constitute an "interactive space," and thus afforded public forum rights protected by Supreme Court rulings. For context, the SC has ruled that city streets in privately owned company towns are still places where First Amendment rights apply. Many civil libertarians and censored conservatives have argued that privately owned public forums like Twitter are completely analogous. Now a court has ruled in their favor, but with caveats. They've ruled that Twitter is a public forum, but only the comments section of Donald Trump's personal Twitter account. Ludicrous, to be sure. This is a political court trying to have its cake and eat it too. They want special rules that apply only to Donald Trump, which of course is exactly the opposite of what a legal outcome is supposed to be. Even if that were the case, every right-winger banned from Twitter has cause for legal redress, since they are thus blocked from the "interactive space" of Trump's account. But those disclaimers will carry no weight in either the appeals court, or later courts that take the resulting cases, who will either rule that Twitter is a public forum subject to First Amendment rights in toto, or that is is a private enterprise that can regulate speech as it wishes. The rules for Drumpf only won't hold up. The public officials clause won't likely stand either. The Supreme Court verdict they refer to has no similar clause. All otherwise legal political speech on private city streets is protected, not just lobbying grievances against public officials. Actually, I'm becoming increasingly convinced that this ruling will stand after all, because the legally preposterous caveats will merely be ignored. A left-leaning judge is likely to uphold the ruling for the obvious reasons. A right-leaning judge is likely to uphold the ruling as a matter of principle, or perhaps to stick it to the social media mafia.

Just think of how conservatives couldn't get by without the help of the left. Trump's election stemmed from free hatred-fueled press. He's now having his support amongst conservatives consolidated thanks to the Mueller Dragnet. And now the liberal stranglehold on social media may be broken by a liberal court. If you love poetic justice, you've got to love this timeline.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

New York Times: New York Times is Fake News

The New York Times never ceases to amaze. Their recent article, F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims, is shaping up to be a doozy, based on just the title and the first few paragraphs. I'll be going through the whole article (or as much as I can stand) and giving some running commentary. Before we begin, I have to say that these people truly astound me. I remember when I was in fourth grade and I got caught lying to my teacher about some late homework. I felt so terrible I was sick to my stomach. How these people can blatantly peddle such nonsense and then show their faces outside, knowing someone may recognize them, is truly beyond me. At any rate, let's begin.

As a rule of thumb, if you are in some sort of debate, and your opponent resorts to pedantry, you've won. Picking at the particular syntax of a statement means they have no rebuttal to its content. So consider the title. Anyone who's seen a spy thriller or read a Tom Clancy novel knows that a covert adversary seeking intel is called a spy, while an ally doing the same is an agent, asset, or informant. This title is quibbling over whether the FBI asset used to penetrate Trump's campaign was a spy or an informant. Actually not even quibbling; they're straight up calling Trump a liar for his characterization of the ordeal. The title conveys no information but to illuminate the Time's complete lack of impartiality. There is no sort of nuance, that one man's informant is another man's spy. They say he was an informant and that's it. They proclaim the DOJ as an ally, and Trump as an adversary. Not that it's any surprise, except to see them so boldly demonstrating their allegiance.

This first paragraph goes:
President Trump accused the F.B.I. on Friday, without evidence, of sending a spy to secretly infiltrate his 2016 campaign “for political purposes” even before the bureau had any inkling of the “phony Russia hoax.”
Without evidence? This is clearly in response the Time's own reporting. Perhaps these writers didn't get all the way down to paragraph 40 of that article, where it cited former and senior and current senior DOJ officials as confirming that a secret informant was probing Trump's campaign staff. This follows on reporting last week by the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, who were the first Fake News-tier outlet to break the story. The Post didn't engage in some in-depth journalism, weaving disparate threads together to assemble the full narrative. Devin Nunes was publicly fighting the DOJ to un-redact the name of an informant mentioned in the EC that was used to justify the FBI's investigation of the Trump campaign. The Post didn't so much break the story as they were the first to decide they couldn't ignore it forever so they might as well try to get in front of it. No evidence...well, it's certainly not the first time the NYT has abused that term.
In fact, F.B.I. agents sent an informant to talk to two campaign advisers only after they received evidence that the pair had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign.
In fact? A fact according to what source? What contacts were suspicious, and why? And does it matter if they were linked to Russia? Are they saying Hillary Clinton had no one linked to Russia on her foreign policy team? (She did.)
The informant, an American academic who teaches in Britain, made contact late that summer with one campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, according to people familiar with the matter.
Ah, the source is "people familiar with the matter." As opposed to people who have no clue what's going on. I'm familiar with the matter. Can I be a source too?
The New York Times has learned the source’s identity but typically does not name informants to preserve their safety.
Again, just jaw-dropping coming from the outlet that outed the CIA's top undercover operative in Iran. And this just underscores something that Nunes has complained about bitterly. Once again, the New York Times has access to information that the Congressional oversight committees do not. He has to issue subpoenas and threaten officials with contempt and impeachment to get the DOJ to release the same information that they already leaked to the press. We are living in crazy times.
Democrats say the Republicans’ real aim is to undermine the special counsel investigation.
If asking for the documents that launched the operation and established its scope is "undermining," that's a strong indication that there are some legality issues. It's like telling the policeman that asking for your license and registration is undermining your ability to get to work, only bigger, and stupider.
No evidence has emerged that the informant acted improperly...
Nor is there evidence he acted properly. It's an unknown, but highly suspicious. That's why the "mostly conservative outlets" are engaging in something called investigative journalism to piece together the timeline.
After opening the Russia inquiry about a month later, they took steps, those officials said, to ensure that details of the inquiry were more closely held than even in a typical national security investigation, including the use of the informant to suss out information from the unsuspecting targets.
This is the timeline they are promoting. The informant was deployed in response to the investigation. We don't yet know what the timeline really was, but it may have been the other way. If that is the case, it will turn the Time's reporting on its head. (It's okay, they're used to it.)
F.B.I. officials concluded they had the legal authority to open the investigation after receiving information that Mr. Papadopoulos was told that Moscow had compromising information on Mrs. Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” months before WikiLeaks released stolen messages from Democratic officials.
Note the language here. After he was told. Not after he told someone else. (Wasn't that the story up until now?) Expect more developments on this in the coming days. Everyone who is a real journalist will be wanting to ask Mr Papadopoulos, who told you about the emails and when?
Details about the informant’s relationship with the F.B.I. remain scant. It is not clear how long the relationship existed and whether the F.B.I. paid the source or assigned the person to other cases.
Gee, if only there was someone in Congress trying to obtain that information (and being obstructed to the fullest extent possible...)

The real substance of the article is this:
Over drinks and dinner one evening at a high-end London hotel, the F.B.I. informant raised the subject of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails that had spilled into public view earlier that summer, according to a person familiar with the conversation. The source noted how helpful they had been to the Trump campaign, and asked Mr. Papadopoulos whether he knew anything about Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Papadopoulos replied that he had no insight into the Russian campaign — despite being told months earlier that the Russians had dirt on Mrs. Clinton in the form of thousands of her emails. His response clearly annoyed the informant, who tried to press Mr. Papadopoulos about what he might know about the Russian effort, according to the person.

The assistant also raised the subject of Russia and the Clinton emails during a separate conversation over drinks with Mr. Papadopoulos, and again he denied he knew anything about Russian attempts to disrupt the election.
According to someone familiar with the conversation. It's becoming evident that their source is Halper himself. Am I missing something, or is this a bombshell report that the whole narrative about Papadopoulos is false? The sinister claim put forward in those three paragraphs is that he was asked about the emails and said he didn't know anything, even though he was previously told about them, to the annoyance of the informant. How did the informant know that he was told about the emails in the first place? (The obvious answer is likely to be the correct answer.) It's like the police showing up and telling there's a body under the bridge, and then using that evidence against you so they can wiretap you, leak your information freely to the press, cause you to run up legal bills, and convince half the town that you are a murderer.

Note that there is no mention of what was previously the official story: that Papadopoulos drunkenly spilled the beans to an Australian diplomat, which was ultimately forwarded to the FBI. Are they backing off that claim entirely? The thing is they really can't, as that was already the official justification given for launching the FBI investigation against Trump. Nunes has stated he can't find any evidence of that intel trail, and the DOJ has offered no evidence to contradict him. Is it starting to make sense why they are refusing to provide him the unredacted EC that allegedly started the whole affair?

This new piece is shaped a lot like Wednesday's big article. The title and most of the text is slanted to a desired narrative. In this case, they are crafted to make Trump look like a liar. But quietly buried down in the bowels is the real story. On Wednesday the story was that Trump was indeed spied on, and that the investigation revealed no evidence of collusion. In this article the story is that Papadopoulos told the informant nothing, and in fact it's starting to look like the informant told him about Russians having emails. The headlines and first few paragraphs are all that most people read. Typical readers (liberals like Lisa Page) just read that Trump is a liar, Trump is a criminal, Republicans are attacking the special counsel, etc. But obscured within is the real story. That way, when the facts really break open, the New York Times can say, oh, we already reported that. Se we aren't fake news. And all their acolytes will say yeah that was already reported and no one cared. Why are you making such a big deal about it? Must be your bias. But the truth is that the obfuscation of fact and the amplification of political messaging are done very intentionally. To anyone out there who believes that the New York Times does not primarily serve as political propaganda, I'd have to ask: just what do you think propaganda would look like?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Bargaining is the Third Step

The five steps of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The order of the first two in response to Trump's election - highly traumatic to liberals, neocons, and deep-state bureaucrats - seems to have been flipped. First was anger. They're still quite angry, but the magnitude has abated significantly. Recall what your social media feeds looked like on Nov 9, 2016. Absolute fury. Second came denial, so widespread amongst the Trump haters that it gave cover for the Mueller Dragnet. Surely he could not have legitimately won, cries the Never Trumper. It is our duty to investigate how he cheated! Denial has come in other forms, like their clinging to a "Blue Wave" which will set up Congress to begin an impeachment process in 2018. They forget that 2016 wasn't just a miraculous victory for Trump, but a huge night for Republicans across the country. They'd also rather ignore that Trump's support numbers are inching up to about 50%, despite 90% negative coverage from the media and the never-ending Mueller Dragnet.

Today, the New York Times signaled the beginning of the next phase - bargaining - in an article titled Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation [covered by Sundance here, which is always a must-read.] The purpose of the article is clear: to get in front of the story in an act of pre-emptive damage control. The article takes pains to portray James Comey and many high-level DOJ officials as out-of-the-loop in all this, which means that the sources are almost certainly James Comey and those high-level DOJ officials. Despite spin so strong that the article is almost upside-down, there are significant factual concessions made: that the Trump campaign was spied on electronically and through covert agents. The admission of electronic surveillance is written in the context of the whole Trump campaign, and should put to rest any claims the FBI surveillance was limited in scope, such as only to Carter Page. The admission to human intel is a bombshell confession that substantiates Kimberley Strassel's reporting of just five days ago - which suggested that a London-based US intelligence asset invited George Papadopoulos for a meeting, posed questions about Russian hacking, then reported back to the FBI small group via an Australian diplomatic channel with the depiction of a loose-lipped Papadopoulos making an inadvertent drunken confession. It was that piece of intel that the FBI claimed as its probable cause for initiating the Trump campaign investigation. The Times piece does us one better by stating the claims of multiple officials that the "FBI informant" met several times with both Papadopoulos and Carter Page. By meeting several times with both junior aids, the informant was clearly working with the investigation, yet his conversation may also have been the impetus for investigation.

 The article is strategic, no doubt, but it reveals a shift in attitude. Okay, we admit there was spying on the Trump campaign, and that it turned up no evidence of collusion with Russia, but it was "cautious intelligence gathering" that was reasonable given the evidence at hand." Given their insistence on isolating the activities to a small group within the DOJ and FBI, it seems they are preparing us for the coming OIG report. The article happens to have come out the same day that Horowitz sent out his draft report for review. The spying seemed reasonable from our perspective, and any crimes reported by the IG were limited to that small group. That's the bargain. Whether the Trump administration will accept that bargain is an open question, the outcome of which will determine the depth of the next phase - which we've long waited for - depression. Maybe it will come just in time for the midterm elections.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Parallel Construction

Parallel construction is the term used by law enforcement - first revealed by Reuters in 2013 - for the tactic of conducting two simultaneous investigations against a target. One appears to be a standard, lawfully executed investigation, and the other is a covert operation that skirts around constitutional civil protections. For instance, if federal eavesdroppers hear in a phone conversation that you have drugs in the house, police cannot use that as probable cause to raid your house and arrest you. It would be thrown out in court, because no one should have been listening to your phone call to begin with. Instead, police may get the tip and then just happen to be walking by on patrol, and just happen to smell weed, and they're certain it's coming from your house. Parallel construction is nothing but illegal police work with plausible deniability sprinkled in.

The left is generally opposed to parallel construction. The Intercept - one of the only outlets from the left that is honest and does real journalism - recently wrote on the subject. The ACLU of Massachusetts was very critical of parallel construction two years ago.
Information the NSA collects for purposes of so-called “national security” will be used by police to lock up ordinary Americans for routine crimes. And we don’t have to guess who’s going to suffer this unconstitutional indignity the most brutally. It’ll be Black, Brown, poor, immigrant, Muslim, and dissident Americans: the same people who are always targeted by law enforcement for extra “special” attention.
This is the normal liberal take on the matter. Parallel construction is bad and aversely affects their vassal demographics. Of course, we don't expect them to be particularly concerned when the victim is white or a conservative. The writers at The Intercept may be genuinely principled, but they are the exception to the rule. Liberals certainly don't care that the IRS targeted Tea Party supporters and leaked their identities to a secretive operation at the DOJ. They're glad it happened. but it's just the same principle.

The two facets of parallel construction are collection and laundering. First data is improperly collected against a target, then [steps are taken to make the data appear] legal and legitimate. What is unfolding in front of us appears to be the grandest parallel construction ever seen.  Let's look at the ways law enforcement has used parallel construction in their quest to overturn the most recent federal election.
  • The FBI sought the FISA-I warrant many months after abusing its special FISA-702 powers. The FISA-I warrant was essential to legitimize the intel that had already been collected, and to provide cover for that illegal operation.
  • The FBI misled the FISA court about the legitimacy of Hillary's Dossier by not revealing it was funded by Hillary, by not disclosing their own disciplinary actions against its author, and by - in a truly conniving act - leaking the contents to a media outlet, and using the resulting article to substantiate the dossier in court.
  • They crafted the narrative that McCain received the dossier from Steele, who handed if off to the FBI in December 2016. McCain acknowledge the claim in January 2017, and in his recent book recounted that he handed the dossier off directly to Comey. The same dossier that the FBI had funded since at least June of 2016, and used to obtain a secret surveillance warrant against Trump's team in October of 2016. The only thing we can't be sure about is whether McCain was complicit in the ruse, or just the world's biggest stooge.
  • DNI Clapper leaked the dossier to CNN, compelled Comey to brief the president elect on a small portion of it, then leaked to CNN that the briefing had occurred. This was all to grant the dossier legitimacy. It was now a sensitive intelligence product considered important by the president, the FBI director, and a high-ranking senator, instead of Democratic opposition research picked up by Never Trumpers in the FBI.
  • The dossier itself was a tool for laundering intel. The evidence for this is that it describes evidence that Michael Cohen traveled to Prague during the election to meet secretly with Russian agents. The only problem is they got the wrong guy. It was a different Michael Cohen, who probably wasn't on a clandestine mission. See how they can attribute malice to any random act? The Prague Michael Cohen was a completely random guy on a completely random trip, who only happened to bear a fairly common name. And yet that was deemed to be serious evidence of collusion. Prague, liberals don't know it's not Russian! The point of this is that it doesn't make sense for Steele to have gotten wind of the Cohen trip to Prague from Russian sources. The random Michael Cohen would have been on no one's radar. The reason he came up was because, most plausibly, his name came up in a intel query for the name Michael Cohen. The result then filtered its way into the dossier, which was used to justify a Title-I warrant which was used to justify the initial data collection itself.
Parallel construction - the improper gathering & laundering of intel - is pervasive in this timeline, and is very intentional. It is not something that is used incidentally in the dragnet against Trump or only by a few rogue agents. It is the entirety of the operation. Lie, cheat, and steal to get all possible data on Trump, craft an appearance of legitimacy, and then use the data in whatever way may be damaging, from media leaks all the way up to impeachment hearings.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Did the FBI Leak Cohen Financials to a Porn Star?

In another one of those headlines that would have seemed utterly implausible a year or two ago, the lawyer of porn star Stormy Daniels has accused Trump's lawyer of receiving payments from a Russian oligarch. The reports from the different outlets vary considerably. Let's take a look.

From The Hill
Stormy Daniels’s attorney Michael Avenatti said Tuesday that President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen received $500,000 in the months after the 2016 election from a company run by a Russian oligarch with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
That's a damning accusation. And, you must admit, very troubling if you're a fan of Trump, or have long ridiculed the Russian collusion conspiracy theory. If a "Putin-tied" company is sending Trump's lawyer huge sums of money, that certainly indicates collusion to me.

From Fox News:

That's a headline of a different color. Which is it, is the firm "Putin-tied" or "Cohen-linked"? And was Cohen paid by Russians, or was the ambiguously aligned firm paid by Russians? The article begins:
A firm linked to a Russian oligarch made payments totaling more than $1 million to Michael Cohen, the personal attorney of President Trump, according to a report out Tuesday.
Fox News can't decide - between it's headline and first sentence - whether the firm is linked to Cohen or to Russians. It certainly raises the question of what it means to be linked to a firm.
Of that money, payments totaling approximately $500,000 were made by investment firm Columbus Nova in 2017, The Times reported. One of that firm’s biggest clients is a company helmed by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Vekselberg reportedly was questioned at an airport this year by members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election.
The story shifts again. So Cohen was paid by an investment company, of which a Russian oligarch happens to be a client. It reminds us of the assertion by the media - believed by Comey, apparently - that conservatives had initiated Hillary's Dossier, since a right-leaning business had also happened to do business at Fusion GPS.
An attorney for the company said the money was for a consulting fee and was unconnected to Vekselberg, The Times reported.
The essence of a conspiracy theorist is someone who ignores plausible scenarios in preference of another less-plausible but more sinister scenario. In this case, the plausible scenario is that Cohen provided consultation to the company, a Russian happens to be a customer, and that is it. The more sinister scenario is that Columbus Nova is laundering bribe money from Vladimir Putin to Donald Trump. It's less plausible, but possible. Is it worth investigating? Sure. And worth determining whether such transactions are typical or if something uncouth is going on here. But read the headlines: Cohen paid by Putin-tied company. They've completely circumvented the plausible scenario and asserted sinister headline as if it was fact. This is disingenuous reporting by both outlets, who seem most interested in shocking headlines.

From  CNN:
In a memo posted online Tuesday afternoon, Avenatti alleged that Cohen received the following payments after the 2016 election: approximately half-a-million dollars from a company linked to Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin; nearly $400,000 from pharmaceutical giant Novartis; $150,000 from Korea Aerospace Industries and $200,000 from telecommunications conglomerate AT&T.
So as it turns out, Cohen took payment from a number of firms. An investment firm, a pharmaceutical company, an aerospace manufacturer, and a telcomm. A fitting headline might have been: Trump lawyer's firm paid as consultant for big businesses. Kinda bland, in this news environment. But it shouldn't be. It's perfectly reasonable to report on this and research whether it is a scandal for the president's retained law firm to be hired as a consultant, or to be suspicious of the transactions. But CNN preferred to run with the headline: Stormy Daniels' lawyer: US company linked to Russian oligarch paid $500,000 to Cohen. Outrageous headline, with the reality buried between the lines in the article. No wonder so many are misinformed. They see the headlines skimming social media, mostly, then assume the headline is correct and that a lawyer has evidence of Trump receiving payments from Russians. Since it confirms their worldview, they adopt it as true, and will continue to believe it to be true.
CNN has reviewed documents that appear to show these payments. CNN has not independently authenticated the documents.
The pressing questions is how does Stormy Daniels' lawyer have Michael Cohen's bank records? There are lawsuits filed, but my understanding is none have gone to discovery yet. Our first suspicion has to be that they were leaked to him from the FBI. While it's hard to imagine the lawyer would come forward with the documents if they weren't legally obtained, it fits with our model that the raids were primarily intended to gain data to generate leaks damaging to Trump (and also to intimidate his people.) But why would they leak through a porn star's lawyer and not directly to the media? I'd suspect it's to keep the Stormy aspect alive. Most American's don't really care whether or not Trump paid hush money to a hooker he may have slept with. Still, the media likes to sell sex whenever it can, and leaking through a porn star's lawyer helps keep that aspect alive. Conjecture, but at this point the most plausible scenario is that documents were obtained from the leaky FBI operation.

CNN also recently reported that the Russian oligarch in question, whose cousin runs Columbus Nova, was interrogated earlier this year by Mueller after landing in a US airport. So the timeline goes in this order:
  • Cohen paid for services rendered (or takes receipt of bribes)
  • FBI discovers transaction
  • FBI interrogates Russian oligarch
  • FBI raids Cohen's office
  • FBI leaks financial information to Stormy Daniels' lawyer
The FBI knew of the transaction before the raid on Cohen's office. We can be quite certain that the transaction was the justification for the raid. But they don't leak until now. Why not leak the report around the time of the raid? The FBI caught a ton of flak for a possible violation of client-attorney privilege, which would have been avoided by media coverage of possible infractions by Cohen. It makes me suspect that they already had illegitimate financial data on Cohen, and the raid was to justify their possession of it. That's my own conspiracy theory, I suppose, but we'll know what to pay attention to as the Stormy lawyer attempts to explain his possession of the Cohen financials.