Friday, October 06, 2017

How to Disprove Inconvenient Truths

There is a great way to disprove something.

Murder the witnesses.

This is what the Mob has done for decades.

I get the feeling that the Republicans have taken their “can’t be true because I can’t bear it” equals “isn’t true because I refuse to find out” mindset and moved into full "disprove by discrediting and eliminating" mode.

I refer to the so-called brick wall and the Steele Dossier detailing Trump's involvement with the Russians. We learned about the Steele Dossier months ago, shortly after John McCain obtained a copy and gave it to the FBI.

After this happened certain Republicans set about discrediting the FBI. Then there were public statements about the Russian attack on our election aimed at electing Trump.

While this was going on earlier this year, the news reports and official reports presented to prove the charges were used as a roadmap for the assassins to rub out the witnesses.

Would it be possible to diagram the relationship between the “best practices” official findings distributed earlier in the year about who/how/where/when the Russians hacked our democracy and the subsequent and simultaneous baffling decease of key Russians who knew the who/how/what/where/when of the Russian election hack by mysteriously jumping from high windows or being gunned down on Moscow streets near the Kremlin, etc.?

Now the American intel community is showing prudent reluctance to explain too much about what they know, not wanting more witnesses murdered. And Republicans are turning this caution into a kind of disproof.

Sen. Grassley and South Carolina Rep. Draco Malfoy have begun to act as someone would act if they were under the supervision of the Russians.

Grassley turns “Don’t want to know”

into “Must not figure out”

into “This must not be true”

into “Whoever is saying these terrible things about Republican collusion with America’s Russian friends must be removed”

into “Whoever is saying that Republicans are conspiring with foreign enemies must themselves be guilty of conspiring with foreign enemies.”

Which is a bit like arresting, torturing into confession, and quickly hanging in secret the person who phoned the police to report a Mob execution.

“Whoever is accusing or suggesting that Republicans conspired with the Russian government to subvert our election MUST THEMSELVES BE GUILTY OF CONSPIRING WITH THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT!!!!

It’s called “projection”.

Legitimate news reports that accuse Trump of anything MUST be fake news and it’s much better to accept and believe the fake news supplied by the Russians to deliver the White House to Trump.

Or as we might call him “No Puppet!” Trump, who is also behaving exactly the way a Russian puppet would behave. Trump has also spent his entire life turning accusations around into accusations against his accusers. “I’m no puppet! No puppet! You’re the puppet!"

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Sunday, October 01, 2017

Friends of Trump. Friends of Putin.

The Dutch investigative reporting unit Zembla working with the American newspaper group McClatchy has been tracking the multi-billion dollar transfers of money from around the world into Trump properties, notably Trump Soho, which Trump built with Russian mob figure Felix Sater. This three part documentary follows the money.

The documentary that follows the money trail from central Asia into Trump Soho and other properties.

Trump warned this summer that special prosecutor Mueller had better not look into his financial history. It seems clear why Trump is afraid of this. Trump made loud assurances that he had no investments in Russia. (But did he have Russian millions invested in his properties here and elsewhere?) He said he had no loans IN Russia. (Did he get multi-million or multi-billion dollar loans FROM Russia?)

Trump’s financial history is a roller coaster of boom and bust. Fabulous accumulations of cash followed by spectacular collapses that ruined thousands of investors, but left Trump flush with money. This is how confidence schemes work: draw the money in, then loot the money out, hiding it via multiple shell companies and flipped transactions. In many cases the collapse is carefully planned (think Mel Brooks’s The Producers, minus the comedy.) Much of the cash that built and purchased various Trump properties, notably Trump Soho, is alleged to have been looted from Kazakhstan and other countries, then laundered through hundreds of shadowy companies in financial centers like the Netherlands and London and Cyprus. (One of the banks in Cyprus targeted by money-laundering investigations is co-owned by Trump’s Secretary of Commerce and a Russian oligarch closely allied with Putin.)

This is the pattern of international fraud which loots economies and impoverishes law abiding workers around the world. Trump himself has a long history of stiffing people and companies who do work for him, building and furnishing and servicing his properties, and daring them to sue. So Trump himself behaves like these international crooks by looting the legitimate earnings of working people and hiding those millions where they are hard to locate. One of Trump’s favorite counterarguments when the Russia investigation is raised is to say that we should quit targeting the fine people of Russia. But the investigations are not targeting the fine people of Russia, they are targeting the criminals who stole billions from the fine people of Russia, the working people of Russia and other countries. Trump may not be the biggest villain in the world of global kleptocracy, but he has been in bed with the kleptocrats for decades. The biggest global kleptocrat today appears to be Putin himself, Trump’s role model and possible sugar daddy. While Trump rubbishes the victims of mass theft and fraud in carefully looted and impoverished parts of the world, he praises and kneels to the billionaires who profited from looting them and admires their “leadership”.

Former FBI man Mark Felt gave Woodward and Bernstein some famous advice in 1972 when they were investigating the crimes of the Nixon White House: “Follow the Money.” Following the money has grown more complicated over recent decades as the looting and fraud and money laundering has grown more massive and sophisticated and compliant governments have made the legal system more hospitable to fraud and looting and money laundering. (One example being Trump's abrupt lifting of the financial regulations and safeguards put in place by Obama after the financial crisis of 2008-9.)

Follow the money to discover the crimes of people like Trump, but also examine the company they keep. Trump has been tight with unsavory characters for many years, both the famous and the infamous, shadowy mobsters and nasty celebrities as well as leaders of corrupt and brutal regimes.

What is it about Trump's and Putin's bromances with the ugliest kinds of celebrity, people like Steven Seagal and Gerard Depardieu.

Why does Trump never say a critical or unpleasant word to or about Putin? Maybe he just admires the guy. Or maybe he is afraid to. To paraphrase the saying Gordon Liddy had on the wall in his office “When you have them by their junk [their global investments] their hearts and minds will follow.” We’ve long suspected that Putin holds Trump hostage via money, and Sec. of State Tillerson too. It appears that Russians put Trump’s fortunes in order after at least one bankruptcy. Is he still on the hook to them, and for how much?

Question: why appoint as Secretary of State an oil company CEO who organized the largest oil deal in history with Putin himself?

Big money deals buy a lot of boot-licking but it's not good for America when the licking is being done by our government, with foreign enemies praised and admired while traditional allies are insulted.

I like Gary Kasparov’s phrase “Reputation Laundering”, which describes what Trump is doing for Putin and what the GOP has done for Trump and Putin.

When our president lives off the profits of shady money and global criminality it quickly corrupts how we operate in the world. It stains our national reputation, our global standing.

F.O.P. “Friends of Putin” populate the world of big money. From the Financial Times.

It’s enlightening to look at the kind of scummy creatures who are friends of Putin’s, the kinds of things they do, the things they say, the scummy things they approve of and the decent things and people they ridicule.

It’s also worth looking at the list of Putin’s former friends. Many of them have died in unpleasant and sudden ways.

Reported in March by the Chicago Tribune.

A more recent article about Russian hits on Putin critics––from the New Yorker.

From Vox, a list of the dead.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Misogyny Among White Married Women Helped Elect Trump

Married white women in large numbers went along with their men and rejected Hillary Clinton. The why of this has been hard to determine because it’s difficult to look inside people’s minds. Most of the white women who voted for the Russian backed serial bankrupt assaulter of women and insulter of all races and ethnicities said they did so because they admired him and honestly believed she was a crook and a liar and unpatriotic. (Hillary has often remained seated on the sofa while the national anthem played during the TV broadcast of NFL games.)

My own belief, based on nothing, and roundly rejected by everyone I spoke with, was that women whose husbands or partners loved Trump and hated Hillary simply didn’t want to spend four or eight years being subjected to abuse and ridicule and blame if the first woman president ever did anything wrong. And women are likelier than men to understand that leaders sometimes make mistakes. Maybe some of them or a lot of them trusted the polls and believed Hillary would win anyway, and if bad stuff happened their partners would abuse Hillary but wouldn’t abuse them. Possible? It would be hard to get a woman to admit it.

It was very hard on white male egos to have eight years of embarrassment under a white male Republican president followed by eight non-catastrophic years under a black male president who didn’t blow the budget with a trillion dollar unnecessary and disastrous war and trigger a massive economic crisis. (It was extra humiliating that the black guy rescued the economy from what the white guy fucked up.) But to follow the very competent and cool black guy with a woman was simply too too humiliating for white men. They couldn’t bear it. I am sure their spouses and partners could tell that it would set them off in unpleasant directions for the next four, possibly eight, years. Violence against people of color rose dramatically during the Obama presidency. Would violence against women skyrocket during the first female presidency? And you can bet, just as Republicans swore to block everything Obama tried to accomplish, and the faithful in thousands of white superchristian churches prayed fervently for him to fail, that all the Republicans would do their damnedest to make sure Hillary failed. Because she made every Republican man and lots of Democratic men feel like a failure. Not only had a black man jumped the queue but now a woman had. The natural order of things was being upset. It upset people, especially white people, especially white people with dicks, but also the women who were married to them. So white women joined the Dickish Party. (It didn't hurt Trump's electability that thousands of Russian trolls and bots were pushing this same misogyny and race-worry at white voters in swing states.)

This new study doesn’t make this point but it does explain the pressure, both economic and political, that shaped the Trump vote among white married women. Deference is an old-fashioned idea some women still subscribe to. Maybe it's out of self-defense. Self interest is pretty human; people vote their pocket book. This study combines the two because it says deference to the man’s income shaped the vote of married white women; they voted against women’s economic interests to support their subservience to the man’s economic interests.

The study is reported on in the Guardian.

It’s worth looking at the unfairness at the root of all this. There is a double standard. Women are required to be perfect and at the same time deferential to their male counterparts even if those males are far less perfect than the women. Because failing to be deferential makes the males feel diminished. Some probably feel a greater need for male enhancement products if they are compared unfavorably with a woman, and that male dysfunction is contagious: when one man experiences it all men start to go flaccid and angry. Women may love their men in spite of their faults but men tend to feel uncomfortable around women who outperform them. A ultra competent woman is less attractive than a man who fucks up.

But her emails!

Last fall Newsweek published a story about how many emails George W Bush and Dick Cheney managed to lose to avoid having their Iraq War motives scrutinized. W lost 22 million emails, but nobody minded.

"According to the Boston social media analytics firm Crimson Hexagon, which ran a study for Newsweek, there have been 560,397 articles mentioning Clinton’s emails between March 2015 and September 1, 2016.”

W and his boss Cheney spent trillions on an unnecessary war based on phony reasoning and what we would today call “fake news” and they covered up their machinations by “losing” 22 million emails. That’s million with an M, almost a thousand times more emails than Hillary allegedly lost. (Full disclosure: I delete emails every month, which I suppose makes me a suspicious character.)

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Friday, September 22, 2017

The Russians Have Always Preferred American Presidents Who Are Corrupt

One of Alistair Cooke's BBC letters from America has this interesting paragraph, written in 1973, about Watergate. During that earlier scandal, Nixon (like Trump) had a defender in Moscow, who said the charges against the American president were a conspiracy and a hoax cooked up by "reactionary” liberal elements.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Russian Money May Explain Republican Attack on Americans' Access to Affordable Healthcare


From that very Texan and very middle American newspaper, the Dallas Morning News...

"Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin's favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.
"During the 2015-2016 election season, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard "Len" Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik's donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik's holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and"


(This is separate from the millions which were paid by the Russians to Trump’s campaign manager and national security advisor and millions more laundered through his Commerce Secretary’s Cypriot bank.)


Bloomberg is reporting that Russian billionaire oligarchs (and there are no oligarchs in Russia who are not close to Putin) have invested heavily in corporate healthcare and Big Pharma in the U.S.

(Essentially, Russians are confident that for-profit healthcare and Big Pharma will very soon see a big growth in profits. How do they know this? Maybe they have the Republican Congress and the Republican White House in their pocket.)



The Russians who gave this big money will expect their Republican congressmen and senators to deliver, why else would they have given them the money? The Guardian is reporting that the Koch Brothers who give millions to Republicans every election cycle have signaled that the money will dry up if the Republicans don’t repeal Obamacare and cut billionaires’ taxes. Republicans are listening because they are afraid. They do what their billionaire donors tell them.





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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Republicans Again Targeting The Poor And The Sick On Healthcare Access

Lawrence O’Donnell played the Kimmel monologue a bit early last night so prime time audiences could hear Kimmel tell how Cassidy (of Graham-Cassidy) "lied right to my face.” Kimmel then urges everyone to phone Republicans in the Senate to tell them how evil this bill is.

202 224 3121

Again, the swing Republicans on this issue are Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, John McCain of Arizona, and Susan Collins of Maine. Try to explain to them why this bill is so hard on the most vulnerable Americans, and why it is so damned unfair and cruel. Because they have a hard time comprehending it.

Earlier, Cassidy went on Kimmel’s show and smiled and promised his Obamacare repeal would not target the poor and the sick. It does target the poor and the sick. It cuts funding for the poor and the sick more aggressively than the previous Republican bills did.

Republican Senator Cassidy quickly responded to Kimmel's charges by saying Kimmel "just doesn't understand..." Saying his plan does indeed cover people with pre-existing conditions.

Reported in The Hill newspaper

Sure it does––but it allows insurers to jack their premiums sky high to punish them for being sick. What a cynical liar. Just as all Americans have the right to live in million dollar homes all Americans do have the right to buy decent health insurance––but they can’t afford it. Obamacare forced health insurers to stop offering junk coverage and also forced them to stop penalizing the people with preexisting conditions. The Republicans keep trying to push the poor back onto junk coverage that doesn’t really cover anything serious, and their plans keep punishing the sick for being sick.

The Republicans are rich. The Republicans represent the rich. The Republicans, like all members of Congress, have paid guaranteed Cadillac healthcare coverage for life and don’t give a damn about anyone else because they don’t comprehend what everyone else faces.

Here is President Trump’s healthcare advisor’s reasoning on the issue (via John Harwood): Trump adviser Moore on unfairness of the healthy subsidizing the sick: “People want insurance for their own families, not other peoples’ "

Which misses the entire point of health insurance, that the many who are healthy help support the few who are sick or in fear of their life. The Republican excuse is similar to their refusal to vote for hurricane relief because their districts weren't hit by the hurricane. (Until they were hit and then they demanded it.) The whole reason for covering everyone is the cost advantage of economies of scale.

It’s the familiar Republican refrain “I got mine. Fuck you.” Which they usually phrase more delicately.

So we need to flood the Senate with phone calls again: 202 224 3121

Because as long as they control the Congress they will keep trying to screw the poor and the sick.

It seems more likely the Republicans will kill our much improved healthcare system this time because they are being bribed/blackmailed by the giant money teats, the Koch Brothers, who have threatened to withhold cash from Republican candidates in 2018 unless they deliver on healthcare (removing millions from it) and tax “reform” (tax cuts for billionaires).

Koch blackmail on healthcare vote reported in The Guardian

Here is a discussion with Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut earlier on Ari Melber's program

The Republicans are also attacking access to healthcare in another way, by drastically defunding the assistance poor Americans need to afford it: Analysis of how the GOP Reinsurance Plan would end up screwing the poor and the sick, from the StarTribune

Need more evidence that there’s something sinister about the Republicans’ healthcare strategy? News that a Russian oligarch (read mobster and Putin ally) is working with Washington insiders to invest millions of rubles in American healthcare.

Russian mob money targeting American healthcare reported by Bloomberg

Why? Because Republican healthcare is what’s known as a Killer Business Model.

The Republicans want to re-weaponize our healthcare system against us for profit.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

The GOP Has Begun To Act Like A Criminal Syndicate

The style and concern demonstrated by the law enforcement pros going after the Russian election began looking like a RICO investigation quite a while ago. There has been an historic deference toward major political parties and politicians because there were accepted norms, but the norms were violated decades ago. It’s been Republican administrations who have violated the law, and they’ve done it in broad and aggressive ways; look at Watergate; look at Iran Contra.

Perhaps the deference remained so long because so many law enforcement professionals are registered Republicans or at least express conservative values. That deference has been insulted for decades. So many of the FBI’s and other law enforcement investigations have been directed at the major financial crimes enabled by the legal latitudes given to major financial criminals by Republican legislation; these professionals have to feel insulted and demoralized that the Republicans not only ensure that violent criminals have easy access to more weapons but also that major financial crooks have easy ways of evading justice. Not only have the Republicans enabled major crime but they and their allies and operatives have begun to resemble major criminal organizations. Which may be why we are hearing more discussion of RICO strategies being used by the various investigations into the Russian election hack to put Trump in office. (Trump has been cozy with criminal gangs his whole career. No doubt he feels very much at home.)

Now the efforts to neutralize criminal investigations is being pushed and directed by White House appointees. This is one of the abuses of power that forced Nixon from office: his willingness to handicap our national security and investigative agencies in order to keep himself in power.

Has the White House neutered our counterintelligence agencies to protect Putin and Trump and the Republican Party? Is there more concern for their own Republican security than National Security? (Note NYMag story below on how the GOP keeps redirecting investigations away from Russia and Trump.)

This from Lawfareblog:

"Pompeo is not the first politician to lead the CIA, but his relentless brand of politics and close ties to Trump have led to fears that he cannot remain impartial about the Russia probe. In particular, critics worry that he will inhibit the work of the Agency’s Mission Center for Counterintelligence, which may possess damaging information about Russia’s role in last year’s election. The Center is the Agency’s hub for tracking foreign intelligence efforts in the United States, and according to the Post, a conduit to the FBI. Pompeo reportedly ordered the Center to report to him directly, which makes sense given his commitment to track down leakers and the sensitivity of the issue. But some within the Agency worry that he could use his position to discourage it from pursuing the investigation at all.”

Did the White House settle a big Russia case in NY to protect Putin and Trump? Is this why they decided to fire Preet Bharara?

This reported by BusinessInsider:

"Last summer, Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected attorney in an attempt to obtain information 'that would incriminate Hillary,'" the Democrats wrote, citing the emails he published. "Earlier this year, on May 12, 2017, the Department of Justice made an abrupt decision to settle a money laundering case being handled by that same attorney in the Southern District of New York.

"We write with some concern that the two events may be connected — and that the Department may have settled the case at a loss for the United States in order to obscure the underlying facts."

The Prevezon case garnered high-profile attention, given its ties to a $230 million Russian tax-fraud scheme and the Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, whose suspicious death aroused international media attention and spurred the passage of the Magnitsky Act in 2012. Denis Katsyv and Veselnitskaya have become the face of Moscow's lobbying efforts against the Magnitsky Act in recent years.

Democrats now want to know whether Veselnitskaya was "involved at any point in the settlement negotiations," and they have asked Sessions to provide the committee "with the prosecution files and any other explanatory materials related to the settlement."

It appears Facebook created a huge and powerful weapon and made it available for use by the Russians––or anyone who wanted to corrupt our democracy. The only thing FB cared about was whether the trolls and bots and foreign spies and domestic fascists and racists paid for everything they wanted FB to do.

This, again, from BusinessInsider:

FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller reportedly obtained a search warrant for records of the "inauthentic" accounts Facebook shut down earlier this month and the targeted ads these accounts purchased during the 2016 election.

The warrant was first disclosed by the Wall Street Journal on Friday night and the news was later confirmed by CNN.

Legal experts say the revelation has enormous implications for the trajectory of Mueller's investigation into Russia's election interference, and whether Moscow had any help from President Donald Trump's campaign team.

"This is big news — and potentially bad news for the Russian election interference 'deniers,'" said Asha Rangappa, a former FBI counterintelligence agent.

Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to aim law enforcement back at the people who reported the crime and putting our counterintelligence agencies to work protecting and assisting the Russian spy agencies. Remember when Trump announced a plan to team up with Russia to find out the truth? It begins to appear the entire Republican apparatus is with the Russians.

From NYMagazine

Donald Trump’s Republican allies have always sought to discredit the Russia investigation by going on offense. (It’s impossible to defend a president who’s constantly beset by written emails by his associates accepting invitations from Russians offering election help and cackling “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” and other comically incriminating revelations.) Their first attempt at offense focused on Barack Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice, who Republicans spent days attacking as a sinister “unmasker,” until the charges against Rice quietly collapsed earlier this month.

They have found a new target: the famous dossier on Donald Trump compiled by British intelligence agent turned private investigator Christopher Steele, which they hope to use to discredit former FBI director James Comey.

If Trump is removed from office, Pence becomes president. Mike Pence, Trump’s wingman. Mike Pence, Trump’s solid defender and helpful liar. Pence has his own Russia problems, beginning with his saying last summer that Putin is “inarguably a better leader than Obama.” For Pence, the Russian dictator is “inarguably” preferable to an elected U.S. president of the other party (and a different race.)

From Bill Moyers: a timeline of Pence's culpability

Newsweek describes VP Pence's adjacence to worst things Trump people are alleged to have done.

While Pence and his office keep evading questions, his only defense appears to be cluelessness. That appears unlikely.

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