Tuesday Reads: Spring Has Sprung, Bringing More Snow to the Northeast

Good Afternoon!!

It’s the first day of Spring, but there’s no Spring weather for my neck of the woods.

Happy spring! A fourth nor’easter this month will be landing Wednesday across Southern New England, testing the limits of the Massachusetts psyche when it dumps up to 12-14 inches of snow across the state. Forecasters offered storms specifics in their final forecast Tuesday morning.

The storm is expected to begin Wednesday morning between 5 a.m. – noon, depending on where in the state you are. The farther south the earlier the storm starts. The Boston area can expect the storm around 9 a.m. The snow will be the heaviest Wednesday afternoon into the evening before it begins to taper off early Thursday morning.

The amount of snow pegged to fall has finally been nailed down: The storm is expected to bring between 8-14 inches everywhere east of Springfield, except for the Cape and Islands, which may only see 4-6. (For those who are convinced the “low-end” predictions will finally be realized – that’s about 3-5 inches across Eastern Mass. Good luck.)

There has been another explosion in Texas, this time at a FedEx facility in the town of Shertz, near San Antonio. NBC News:

A package exploded at a FedEx distribution center near San Antonio early Tuesday, just two days after a blast injured two men in Austin — the fourth such incident in Texas’ capital this month.

Tuesday’s explosion occurred in the sorting area of the facility in Schertz, Texas, the city’s police department confirmed on its Facebook page. FedEx said one person was treated for minor injuries.

Spring Now, Edouard Monet

“We are working closely with law enforcement in their investigation,” FedEx said in a statement.

The company didn’t provide additional details. NBC affiliate WOAI reportedone female employee was treated for a headache related to a possible concussion from the blast.

It was not immediately clear whether the explosion was related to the incidents in Austin, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which had officials on the scene.

The FBI also said it had responded to the incident, which WOAI reported happened at 12:30 a.m. local time (1:30 a.m. ET).

In addition, a “suspicious package” is being investigated at a FedEx site near Austin airport. KXAN:

Austin Police are investigating a suspicious package at a FedEx Ground facility in Austin. The city is on high alert after four package explosions in three weeks.

That facility is at 4117 McKinney Falls Parkway, near the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Austin police confirm they are investigating after a call came in at 6:19 a.m. Deputies from the Travis County Sheriff’s Office are also on scene, as well as members of the Austin Fire Department and Austin-Travis County EMS. FedEx employees evacuated and some were told to go home after a meeting with managers. It’s not known how many were working at the time.

At 9 a.m., KXAN received information a FedEx Office Print and Ship Center at 5601 Brodie Lane in south Austin was surrounded by authorities. When KXAN called the office, there was an automated message that said the location was closed for the day. Photos show the area is roped off with crime tape.

A Sunset Valley Police officer at the scene told KXAN’s Alyssa Goard said the package that exploded at the Schertz facility was shipped from the Brodie location. Sunset Valley police says it is assisting the FBI by providing perimeter security as it investigates.

There has been another school shooting. NBC Washington: 2 Students Hurt, Shooter Dead After Md. School Shooting.

Picking Flowers, Pierre Auguste Renoir

A student pulled out a gun and shot two other students at a high school in southeast Maryland Tuesday morning before the shooter was killed, the St. Mary’s County sheriff says.

The gunman entered Great Mills High School in Great Mills at the beginning of the school day and shot a female student in a hallway, Sheriff Tim Cameron told News4. A male student also was hit by a bullet.

Two students are in critical condition, and the shooter was pronounced dead later Tuesday morning.

Information was not available immediately on the relationship between the students, Cameron said. A motive is not yet clear.

The shooter exchanged fire with a school resource officer, a trained, armed deputy sheriff, Cameron said. The shooter was wounded; the officer was not.

The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica story is getting worse and worse. Here’s the latest:

The Guardian: ‘Utterly horrifying’: ex-Facebook insider says covert data harvesting was routine.

Hundreds of millions of Facebook users are likely to have had their private information harvested by companies that exploited the same terms as the firm that collected data and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica, according to a new whistleblower.

Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012, told the Guardian he warned senior executives at the company that its lax approach to data protection risked a major breach.

Spring 1956, Pablo Picasso

“My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data,” he said.

Parakilas said Facebook had terms of service and settings that “people didn’t read or understand” and the company did not use its enforcement mechanisms, including audits of external developers, to ensure data was not being misused.

Parakilas, whose job it was to investigate data breaches by developers similar to the one later suspected of Global Science Research, which harvested tens of millions of Facebook profiles and provided the data to Cambridge Analytica, said the slew of recent disclosures had left him disappointed with his superiors for not heeding his warnings.

“It has been painful watching,” he said. “Because I know that they could have prevented it.”

Read the rest at The Guardian.

The New York Times: Alex Stamos, Facebook Data Security Chief, To Leave Amid Outcry.

As Facebook grapples with a backlash over its role in spreading disinformation, an internal dispute over how to handle the threat and the public outcry is resulting in the departure of a senior executive.

Dolce Far Niente, John Singer Sargent

The impending exit of that executive — Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief information security officer — reflects heightened leadership tension at the top of the social network. Much of the internal disagreement is rooted in how much Facebook should publicly share about how nation states misused the platform and debate over organizational changes in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, according to current and former employees briefed on the matter.

Mr. Stamos, who plans to leave Facebook by August, had advocated more disclosure around Russian interference of the platform and some restructuring to better address the issues, but was met with resistance by colleagues, said the current and former employees. In December, Mr. Stamos’s day-to-day responsibilities were reassigned to others, they said.

Mr. Stamos said he would leave Facebook but was persuaded to stay through August to oversee the transition of his responsibilities and because executives thought his departure would look bad, the people said. He has been overseeing the transfer of his security team to Facebook’s product and infrastructure divisions. His group, which once had 120 people, now has three, the current and former employees said.

More at the link.

Bloomberg: FTC Probing Facebook for Use of Personal Data, Source Says.

Facebook Inc. is under investigation by a U.S. privacy watchdog over the use of personal data of 50 million users by a data analytics firm to help elect President Donald Trump.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is probing whether Facebook violated terms of a 2011 consent decree over its handing of user data that was transferred to Cambridge Analytica without their knowledge, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Springtime, Claude Monet

Under the 2011 settlement, Facebook agreed to get user consent for certain changes to privacy settings as part of a settlement of federal charges that it deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended. That complaint arose after the company changed some user settings without notifying its customers, according to an FTC statement at the time.

An FTC spokeswoman said in emailed statement that the agency is aware of the issues that have been raised, but can’t comment on whether it is investigating. The agency takes any allegations of violations of consent decrees seriously, the statement said.

If the FTC finds Facebook violated terms of the consent decree, it has the power to fine the company more than $40,000 a day per violation.

Facebook said in a statement it rejected “any suggestion of violation of the consent decree.”

I hope Facebook goes out of business and Mark Zukerberg becomes a pariah. Sorry, I some people here like Facebook…

The only good news is that a blue wave seems to be coming.

Stuart Rothenberg at Roll Call: Insiders See Democratic House Gains of 30-45 seats.

Seven and a half months before the midterm elections, the combination of attitudinal and behavioral evidence leads to a single conclusion: The Democrats are very likely to win control of the House in November.

Just as important, Republican and Democratic campaign strategists also agree that an electoral wave has already formed….

Farm Garden with Sunflowers, 1905-06 (oil on canvas), Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)

The new March 10-14 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of adults is consistent with other surveys over the past six months. It shows Democrats with a large generic ballot advantage among younger voters, women, whites with at least a college degree and voters age 65 and older.

The GOP’s great strength in the generic ballot is among two pro-Trump groups, men and whites without a college degree. Unfortunately for the party, the survey also shows Democrats, whites with a college degree and older voters as having the greatest interest in the election (and therefore the greatest likelihood of voting). Each of those groups prefers a Democratic Congress.

Moreover, while independents don’t traditionally turn out in big numbers in midterms, one veteran Republican strategist sees them as a huge problem this year. “They are tired of the drama,” he said.

The worst case for the GOP, of course, would be mediocre Republican turnout combined with strong Democratic participation and independents behaving like Democrats (which is what they did in 2006).

If that happens, Republicans would take quite a beating in the fall.

Get all the details at the Roll Call link.

Politico: GOP fears another potential electoral disaster.

National Republicans — on the heels of the Roy Moore and Rick Saccone debacles — worry they’re staring down their latest potential midterm election fiasco: coal baron and recent federal prisoner Don Blankenship.

Spring (Apple Blossoms) 1859 (oil on canvas), John Everett Millais (1829-96)

With Blankenship skyrocketing in the West Virginia Republican Senate primary and blanketing the airwaves with ads assailing his fractured field of rivals as career politicians, senior party officials are wrestling with how, or even whether, to intervene. Many of them are convinced that Blankenship, who served a one-year sentence after the deadly 2010 explosion at his Upper Big Branch Mine, would be a surefire loser against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin — and potentially become a national stain for the party.

The discussions have intensified over the past few weeks. During separate meetings with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, aides to Blankenship’s two primary opponents, Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, pointed to Blankenship’s traction and questioned what could be done to stop him. The Senate GOP campaign arm, which heard out the appeals, recently commissioned a survey to gauge the coal king’s electoral strength and determine his staying power in the race.

Those familiar with the party’s deliberations say the results are clear: With a little more than a month until the May 8 primary, Blankenship, a towering figure in West Virginia politics long before this campaign and an avid opponent of unions, has vaulted into essentially a three-way tie with his rivals and is positioned to move ahead.

Republicans can’t field good candidates anymore. Here’s hoping for a huge blue wave in November!

What else is happening? What stories are you following?


Monday Reads: Justice on the Ropes

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

There were many things to admire about Muhammed Ali. He was tenacious, strategic, clever, and principled.  His invention of the ‘Rope a Dope ‘was tactical brilliance.  A boxer will pretend to be trapped against the ropes but what said boxer is actually doing is  “goading the opponent to throw tiring ineffective punches”.

Can the Democratic members of Congress and the Mueller investigation ‘Rope a Dope’ KKKremlin Caligula?  He appears to be in endless pursuit of ridding himself of the meddlesome G-Man.  This is not in the best interest of our democracy or global stability.  The Republican members of Congress–from top to bottom–have refused to do their constitutional duties sending hopes for timely justice to the ropes. It’s time to ‘Rope a Dope’ the lot of them.  They need to protect the Mueller Investigation.  Bills to do so have stalled in the Senate.

Back in January (when news broke that the president had—unsuccessfully, as it turned out—instructed White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller last summer), Republicans asked about the legislation suggested that McGahn’s refusal . That was baloney then, and it’s an even more alarming abdication now, with the president seemingly poised to go after Mueller directly. And yet, for all of the talk about Mueller over the past few days, nary a Republican has come out in support of passing these bills—including their Republican co-sponsors.

If the hitherto-silent Republicans really have constitutional objections to these bills, let’s hear them (per the above, I’m skeptical). If they have policy objections, let’s hear those, too. But for those who actually want to ensure that the special counsel’s  investigation continues unimpeded and don’t just want to look good to their constituents, there’s an easy way to do more than just threatening the president in tweets and talk-show interviews:

Pass this legislation.

The weekend Twitler meltdown is rattling nerves as are the comments from Trump’s legal team.

Within hours of McCabe’s firing, Dowd, Trump’s personal lawyer, asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to kill the Justice Department’s Russia probe. (Rosenstein has direct authority over the Mueller probe.)

Dowd, in an email to reporters, linked McCabe to the Russia investigation and blamed Comey for making up a case:

I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier.

Dowd had initially told the Daily Beast that he was speaking on behalf of Trump as his “counsel,” only to backtrack after his statement was published and say he was actually speaking for himself. That matters because Trump has repeatedly denied that he’s trying to get rid of Mueller, largely relying on Republican allies to make the case for him.

Dowd is a longtime Washington lawyer, having helped Sen. John McCain confront the Keating Five banking scandal as far back as 1990. He joined Trump’s team to combat the Mueller probe in June, taking the lead as Trump’s chief outside lawyer (Trump is also represented by White House counsel Don McGahn and Ty Cobb, who handles the White House’s response to Mueller’s investigation).

It’s not the first time Dowd’s comments about Mueller have sparked a political controversy. In December, Trump tweeted that he “had to fire” Flynn, the former national security adviser, because Flynn had lied to the FBI.

Mike Allen of Axios writes on Mueller’s endgame.   Does Trump fear the interview or the targeting of the targeting of the Trump org?

The Mueller and Trump teams are hoping to work out the specifics of a presidential interview within the next few weeks.

The big question they’re debating is whether it’ll be in person, in writing, or some combination of the two.

After a weekend of increasingly personal and vocal battles with Mueller, the White House extended an awkward olive branch on Sunday night, with White House lawyer Ty Cobb issuing this statement:

“In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”

But that’s too late. Veering from the White House legal strategy of cooperating with Mueller, Trump attacked him by name on Twitter, seeking to discredit the eventual findings with Republican supporters.

Someone familiar with the process said that was presidential frustration, and that the Trump team continues its ongoing dialogue with Mueller.

27th May 1963: Supremely confident American boxer Cassius Clay holds up five fingers in a prediction of how many rounds it will take him to knock out British boxer Henry Cooper. (Photo by Kent Gavin/Keystone/Getty Images)

Trump’s team has more than signaled a new willingness to attack Mueller directly.

The president, those close to him say, is determined to more directly confront the federal probe into his campaign’s potential role in alleged Russian election interference, even if it means exacerbating his legal standing amid an investigation that has already ensnared some of his most senior campaign and White House aides.

Two sources who speak regularly with Trump said they had noticed an uptick in recent months in the frequency of the annoyance the president would express regarding Mueller and his team, and the irritation at the deluge of negative news stories regarding the probe.

Last week, for instance, The New York Times reported that Mueller had subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, some pertaining to Russia—a demand for personal financial details that the president famously said would be crossing a “red line” in an interview with the Times last year.

Still, on Sunday, White House lawyer Ty Cobb blasted out a statement to reporters that simply assured, “in response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”

Folks are calling this weekend the “pre-Saturday Night Massacre.”

By laying the foundation for this fresh, orchestrated case for the end of the Russian investigation, Sessions appears to have abrogated a commitment, in June 2017, that he would take no step toward firing Mueller.

Sen. Mark Warner: Will you commit to the committee not to take personal actions that might not result in director Mueller’s firing or dismissal?

Sessions: I can say that with confidence…

Warner: You would not take any actions to have the special investigator removed.

Sessions: I don’t think that’s appropriate for me to do.

Did Sessions’s rush to fire McCabe fall under the umbrella of any “action to have [Mueller] removed?” If Sessions had any knowledge that the president and his counsel were prepared to seize on the dismissal to call for Mueller’s firing, then he would have lent support to the plan in a manner inconsistent with his pledge to Warner. Certainly Sessions knew weeks ago that the president was singling out McCabe in his denigration of the “corrupt” FBI leadership. He also must know that McCabe is a witness in the special counsel’s obstruction investigation. These considerations alone should have been sufficient to alert the attorney general to the risks of taking an active part in firing McCabe—especially hurriedly, to beat his retirement date, under public pressure from the president.

But even if Sessions missed all of this, he now understands how the president and his counsel used the firing of McCabe. This may not have been another Saturday Night Massacre, but it may turn out to have been the prelude. And Sessions is—or he has been made—a party to it.

In the massacre of Watergate fame, the attorney general at the time, Elliot Richardson, discovered that the president and White House advisers were maneuvering to force out the special prosecutor, Archibald Cox and “induce [Richardson] to go along.” As Richardson wrote in an Atlantic piece in March of 1976 (titled “The Saturday Night Massacre”), Nixon’s plan was to have him help unwittingly with the ouster of Cox and yet not feel he had to resign.

This new belligerence comes from you-know-who according reports from inside sources.

new report on Trump’s state of mind from the New York Times underscores why this should worry us a great deal. Relying on numerous people close to Trump, it says he decided to attack Mueller over the advice of his advisers because he “ultimately trusts only his own instincts,” with the result that Trump is “newly emboldened” to “ignore the cautions of those around him.”

“For months, aides were mostly able to redirect a neophyte president with warnings about the consequences of his actions, and mostly control his public behavior,” the Times says. But some of his recent actions — his decisions to go ahead with tariffs and a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — have persuaded him that such warnings are overblown. Make sure not to miss this sentence:

Warnings of dire consequences from his critics have failed to materialize.

This helps explain why Trump unleashed his fury on Mueller over the weekend. In a tweet storm that was full of lies — see Glenn Kessler’s takedown of the specifics — Trump claimed that law enforcement is riddled with corruption and that the Mueller probe itself is illegitimate. To make this latter claim, Trump floated the intertwined falsehoods that the Democratic-funded Steele dossier triggered the probe (a lie) and that there was no legit basis for its genesis (also a lie).

This is the problem.  Republican members of Congress are not fighters like Ali. They will not fight for their supposed convictions, country, or even the future of their own party.  There are repercussions for this blatant attack on our rule of law and Constitution. Republican silence is damning.

President Donald Trump’s direct assault on Robert Mueller over the weekend renewed fears he’s preparing to fire the special counsel as Republicans mostly remained silent on the threat.

Just a few Republicans strongly warned Trump against firing Mueller — Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said it could lead to the end of Trump’s presidency. Most avoided taking a stand.

The lack of clarity from the majority party in Congress about potential repercussions may embolden Trump, who last week fired his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and is said to be contemplating a bigger shakeup of his Cabinet and inner circle. The president’s attacks on the FBI, the Justice Department and Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling — and whether anyone close to Trump colluded in it — channeled a long-running narrative on conservative news outlets.

On Sunday evening, White House lawyer Ty Cobb issued a statement saying Trump “is not considering or discussing the firing” of Mueller. But Trump already had made clear his growing impatience at the special counsel and his probe. He continued to do that on Monday morning, saying in a tweet: “A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!”

Here are the few Republicans speaking out. The term milquetoast comes to mind.  Yup Milquetoast Republicans.

Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he expects his colleagues in Congress, including GOP leadership, to push back on the President’s comments and any potential move to force the end of the probe.

“I mean, talking to my colleagues all along it was, you know, once he goes after Mueller, then we’ll take action,” Flake said.

I’m not holding my breath on that action part.  We’re no longer hearing about the roaring markets from them either because this:

U.S. stocks pulled back on Monday as a decline in Facebook pressured the technology sector. Wall Street also paid attention to Washington after a Twitter meltdown from President Donald Trump.

Oh, and what’s plaguing Facebook?

Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are calling on Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to appear before lawmakers to explain how U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica, the data-analysis firm that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency, was able to harvest the personal information.

Everything Trump touches dies.  

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Good Morning…

I don’t know about you, but every day I spend some time looking like the cartoon above.

Like earlier, when signs on Twitter pointed to this shit:

He is tweeting again this morning…



I am so disgust and tired of all this, when will it stop?

Some links today:

This thread is interesting….considering the date it was tweeted:

Put into perspective:

This is all I can bring you today….it is an open thread.

Lazy Saturday Reads: St. Patrick’s Day Edition

Robert F. Kennedy at St. Patrick’s Day Parade after announcing his run for POTUS, 50 years ago today.

Good Morning!!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to those who celebrate it.

Judging by his surname, Andrew McCabe is probably part Irish, but he’s most likely spending the day preparing to defend himself against the wannabe tin-pot dictator we’re stuck with thanks to Vladimir Putin and millions of ignorant white people who get their “information” from Fox News, InfoWars, and Russian trolls. I imagine McCabe is already thinking about writing a book like his former boss James Comey.

The New York Times: Andrew McCabe, a Target of Trump’s F.B.I. Scorn, Is Fired Over Candor Questions.

Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director and a frequent target of President Trump’s scorn, was fired Friday after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rejected an appeal that would have let him retire this weekend.

Mr. McCabe promptly declared that his firing, and Mr. Trump’s persistent needling, were intended to undermine the special counsel’s investigation in which he is a potential witness.

John F. Kennedy on St. Patrick’s Day 1960

Mr. McCabe is accused in a yet-to-be-released internal report of failing to be forthcoming about a conversation he authorized between F.B.I. officials and a journalist.

In a statement released late Friday, Mr. Sessions said that Mr. McCabe had shown a lack of candor under oath on multiple occasions.

Anyone with half a brain knows that this was a political firing, ordered by Trump.

Mr. McCabe was among the first at the F.B.I. to scrutinize possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. And he is a potential witness to the question of whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct justice. Mr. Trump has taunted Mr. McCabe both publicly and privately, and Republican allies have cast him as the center of a “deep state” effort to undermine the Trump presidency.

As a witness, Mr. McCabe would be in a position to corroborate the testimony of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, who kept contemporaneous notes on his conversations with Mr. Trump. Mr. Comey said Mr. Trump prodded him to publicly exonerate the president on the question of Russian collusion and encouraged him to shut down an investigation into his national security adviser.

Trump revealed his complicity in getting McCabe fired just before he could have retired with a full pension after more than 20 years in the FBI.

The Washington Post quotes McCabe’s lawyer:

Michael R. Bromwich, Mc­Cabe’s attorney, said that he had “never before seen the type of rush to judgment — and rush to summary punishment — that we have witnessed in this case.” He cited in particular President Trump’s attacks on McCabe on Twitter and the White House press secretary’s comments about him on Thursday — which he said were “quite clearly designed to put inappropriate pressure on the Attorney General to act accordingly.”

“This intervention by the White House in the DOJ disciplinary process is unprecedented, deeply unfair, and dangerous,” Bromwich said.

McCabe has become a lightning rod in the political battles over the FBI’s most high-profile cases, including the Russia investigation and the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email practices. He has been a frequent target of criticism from Trump.

Read McCabe’s full statement on his firing at HuffPost: Andrew McCabe’s Response To Being Fired Two Days Before His Retirement. An excerpt:

I have been an FBI Special Agent for over 21 years. I spent half of that time investigating Russian Organized Crime as a street agent and Supervisor in New York City. I have spent the second half of my career focusing on national security issues and protecting this country from terrorism. I served in some of the most challenging, demanding investigative and leadership roles in the FBI. And I was privileged to serve as Deputy Director during a particularly tough time.

281 years ago today, Boston hosted its first St. Patrick’s Day Parade; the nation’s longest-running public parade.

For the last year and a half, my family and I have been the targets of an unrelenting assault on our reputation and my service to this country. Articles too numerous to count have leveled every sort of false, defamatory and degrading allegation against us. The President’s tweets have amplified and exacerbated it all. He called for my firing. He called for me to be stripped of my pension after more than 20 years of service. And all along we have said nothing, never wanting to distract from the mission of the FBI by addressing the lies told and repeated about us.

No more.

The investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has to be understood in the context of the attacks on my credibility. The investigation flows from my attempt to explain the FBI’s involvement and my supervision of investigations involving Hillary Clinton. I was being portrayed in the media over and over as a political partisan, accused of closing down investigations under political pressure. The FBI was portrayed as caving under that pressure, and making decisions for political rather than law enforcement purposes. Nothing was further from the truth. In fact, this entire investigation stems from my efforts, fully authorized under FBI rules, to set the record straight on behalf of the Bureau, and to make clear that we were continuing an investigation that people in DOJ opposed.

Read the rest at HuffPost.

Some notable Twitter responses: to Trump’s tweet:

FBI Director James Comey and the three colleagues he told about Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation have either been fired or reassigned. Business Insider:

Former FBI director James Comey told three top FBI officials about conversations he had with President Donald Trump before he was fired last May. All three officials have since been forced out of the bureau, or reassigned within it….

Comey told former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe; his chief of staff, James Rybicki; and FBI general counsel James Baker about his conversations with Trump.

McCabe was fired on Friday, one day before he was set to retire. His firing came amid an internal investigation into his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, which found that he made unauthorized disclosures to the media about the probe while it was ongoing….

1958 New Orleans: “”Not even a heavy rain could dampen the spirit of the Corner Club on St. Patrick’s Day…”

Rybicki [was] resigned from the FBI in late January to accept a job in the corporate sector.

He became a target of Republican criticism for his role in helping craft a memo that exonerated Hillary Clinton in the investigation into her use of a private email server as secretary of state. He answered questions from members of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees earlier in January concerning his work on the Clinton investigation and on Comey’s claims that Trump asked him to pledge his loyalty before firing him in May 2017…


In January Foreign Policy reported that Trump ordered a smear campaign against people in the FBI who could testify against him in Mueller’s probe: Trump Launched Campaign to Discredit Potential FBI Witnesses.

President Donald Trump pressed senior aides last June to devise and carry out a campaign to discredit senior FBI officials after learning that those specific employees were likely to be witnesses against him as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to two people directly familiar with the matter.

In testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, recently fired FBI Director James Comey disclosed that he spoke contemporaneously with other senior bureau officials about potentially improper efforts by the president to curtail the FBI’s investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Mueller is investigating whether Trump’s efforts constituted obstruction of justice.

1975 St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, Boston

Not long after Comey’s Senate testimony, Trump hired John Dowd, a veteran criminal defense attorney, to represent him in matters related to Mueller’s investigation. Dowd warned Trump that the potential corroborative testimony of the senior FBI officials in Comey’s account would likely play a central role in the special counsel’s final conclusion, according to people familiar with the matter.

In discussions with at least two senior White House officials, Trump repeated what Dowd had told him to emphasize why he and his supporters had to “fight back harder,” in the words of one of these officials.

Click on the link to read the rest.

This morning Dowd called for the Special Counsel’s investigation to be shut down. The Daily Beast:

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, told The Daily Beast on Saturday morning that he hopes Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will shut down the Mueller probe.

Reached for comment by email about the firing of former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, sent The Daily Beast the text of Trump’s most recent tweet on the subject, which applauded the firing. Then he wrote that Rosenstein should follow Sessions’ lead.

“I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier,” Dowd then wrote.

Barack and Michelle Obama on St. Patrick’s Day, date unknown

He told The Daily Beast he was speaking on behalf of the president, in his capacity as the president’s attorney.

Dowd also emailed the text below, which is an annotated version of a line from a well-known 20th century play:

“What’s that smell in this room[Bureau}? Didn’t you notice it, Brick [Jim]? Didn’t you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room[Bureau}?… There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity[corruption]… You can smell it. It smells like death.” Tennessee Williams — ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’


More stories to check out:

The Washington Post: Could getting Andrew McCabe fired come back to bite Trump?

The Guardian: Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach.

The Washington Post: Facebook bans Trump campaign’s data analytics firm for taking user data.

Paul Rosenzweig at Lawfare: The Trump Malignancy and the Book That Will Not Be Written.

Vanity Fair: Mueller’s Calculated Strike Against The Trump Org Shows His Strategy is Working.

Politico: FEC probes whether NRA got illegal Russian donations.

Miami Herald: FIU says it knew about crack on bridge, and state’s Transportation Department did, too.

The Guardian: Secretive religious charity run by top US housing officials raises questions.

New York Daily News: Infamous hacker who gave up whistleblower Chelsea Manning to the FBI dies in Kansas.

Tech Times: Early Humans Mated With Neanderthal Relative Denisovans At Least 2 Times.

What stories are you following today?



Friday Reads: The Russian Cyber Invasion

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

Two stories have been haunting me and both deal with Russian Attacks on the West. The first is the ongoing murder and poisonings of folks who have crossed Putin. The second is the ongoing Russian cyber attacks. These are widespread to include nearly all aspects of western life. They are manipulating our Social Media Sites, they are hacking our election systems, and they have entered our energy grids.

There are entire books written and being written on these various forms of cyber manipulation and invasion entering that realm between serious concerns, actual impact, and extreme threat. The test case for the many weapons in the Russian Cyber War arsenal was the Ukraine. We’ve learned within the last 24 hours that this could be us. Here is the lead up to a very informative read from last December’s Wired. In our frenetic news feeds where we chase the chaos emanating from an insane man making huge decisions, we oggle porn stars and subpoenas. Whirring in the back is the growing evidence that we’re under attack. We’re under attack in a way that most of us cannot fully grok.

The clocks read zero when the lights went out.

It was a Saturday night last December, and Oleksii Yasinsky was sitting on the couch with his wife and teenage son in the living room of their Kiev apartment. The 40-year-old Ukrainian cybersecurity researcher and his family were an hour into Oliver Stone’s film Snowden when their building abruptly lost power.

“The hackers don’t want us to finish the movie,” Yasinsky’s wife joked. She was referring to an event that had occurred a year earlier, a cyberattack that had cut electricity to nearly a quarter-million Ukrainians two days before Christmas in 2015. Yasinsky, a chief forensic analyst at a Kiev digital security firm, didn’t laugh. He looked over at a portable clock on his desk: The time was 00:00. Precisely midnight.

Yasinsky’s television was plugged into a surge protector with a battery backup, so only the flicker of images onscreen lit the room now. The power strip started beeping plaintively. Yasinsky got up and switched it off to save its charge, leaving the room suddenly silent.

He went to the kitchen, pulled out a handful of candles and lit them. Then he stepped to the kitchen window. The thin, sandy-blond engineer looked out on a view of the city as he’d never seen it before: The entire skyline around his apartment building was dark. Only the gray glow of distant lights reflected off the clouded sky, outlining blackened hulks of modern condos and Soviet high-rises.

Noting the precise time and the date, almost exactly a year since the December 2015 grid attack, Yasinsky felt sure that this was no normal blackout. He thought of the cold outside—close to zero degrees Fahrenheit—the slowly sinking temperatures in thousands of homes, and the countdown until dead water pumps led to frozen pipes.

That’s when another paranoid thought began to work its way through his mind: For the past 14 months, Yasinsky had found himself at the center of an enveloping crisis. A growing roster of Ukrainian companies and government agencies had come to him to analyze a plague of cyberattacks that were hitting them in rapid, remorseless succession. A single group of hackers seemed to be behind all of it. Now he couldn’t suppress the sense that those same phantoms, whose fingerprints he had traced for more than a year, had reached back, out through the internet’s ether, into his home.

The reach into Western and US culture has been ongoing and has only really been noticed the last few years. It’s only now we’re beginning to see the institutions that have been influenced.

The nation’s leading gun rights lobby was the biggest backer of Trump’s presidential campaign, spending $30 million to help propel him to his upset victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, a strong advocate of gun control laws. But in January, the NRA was drawn into the furor over Russian interference in the election when McClatchy reported that the FBI was investigating whether Russian banker and “lifetime” NRA member Alexander Torshin, who hosted a high-level NRA delegation in Moscow in late 2015, funneled funds to the NRA to help Trump.

It’s illegal for foreign funds to be spent in American elections.

“Whether there was an effort by Russia to create a back channel or assist the Trump campaign through the NRA or gun-rights groups is an open question the committee’s minority has endeavored to answer for the past year,” California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement to McClatchy. “Much work remains to be done concerning that thread of our investigation, including conducting witness interviews and receiving relevant documents from several organizations and individuals.”

Mitchell’s name surfaced after House Republicans announced this week they were ending the panel’s year-old investigation into Russia’s meddling, which had been plagued by months of partisan friction. They issued a 150-page report that concluded there was no “collusion” between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Angry Democrats responded by issuing a wide-ranging, 21-page status report on Tuesday laying out areas of inquiry that were short-circuited by the majority’s decision, vowing to pursue them independently.

Mitchell was among more than two dozen people the Democrats said they would like to interview, including two other figures with connections to Torshin and the NRA. The report said Democratic investigators want to know if Mitchell “can shed light on the NRA’s relationship with Alexander Torshin” or other Russians and also want to see financial records from a South Dakota company and a Russian gun rights group..

Neither the FBI, which is working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Russian meddling in the election, nor the congressional committees have provided details of potentially improper Russian involvement with the NRA.

It seems like it’s been recent but there’s more history than most of us realize. It’s deeper into places than we thought possible. We just haven’t been paying attention because, until now, it hasn’t perceptibly influenced our lives. It’s also complex and difficult to cover in a TV minute.

In the past decade the Russian government has mounted more than a dozen significant cyber attacks against foreign countries, sometimes to help or harm a specific political candidate, sometimes to sow chaos, but always to project Russian power.

Starting in 2007, the Russians attacked former Soviet satellites like Estonia, Georgia, and Ukraine, and then branched out to Western nations like the U.S. and Germany. U.S. intelligence officials and cyber experts say a strategy that pairs cyber attacks with on-line propaganda was launched by Russian intelligence a decade ago and has been refined and expanded ever since, with Putin’s blessing. Russia has shut down whole segments of cyber space to punish or threaten countries.

Mike McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, says there is a bottom line to the pattern of hacking.

“For years now, the Kremlin has looked for ways to disrupt democracies, to help the people that they like to come to power and to undermine the credibility of the democratic process,” said McFaul. Russia also seeks to weaken the European Union and NATO.

There’s a 10 year history outlined there. Attacks by Russian hackers on other countries are well documented. One of Putin’s cronies is funding troll farms and a mercenary arm for the Russian strategy. As I read more about this, I truly understand why Paul Manaford would possibly feel–but may not absolutely be–safer in a Federal Prison.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the man widely referred to as “Putin’s chef,” doesn’t actually prepare food. Instead, he cooks up international plots — like Russia’s campaign to use social media to undermine Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and promote Donald Trump’s.

Prigozhin was among the 13 Russian nationals indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller in February and is by far the most well-known. His ties to Putin go back to at least 2001: He’s worked on everything from election interference to setting up pro-Putin newspapers to sending Russian mercenaries to Syria to fight on behalf of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

A recent Washington Post report says that he personally approved a Russian mercenary attack on US forces stationed in eastern Syria in early February; US intelligence, per the Post, intercepted a conversation where he promoted the idea.

“Putin’s chef” would be better described as Putin’s fixer: someone who does the Russian leader’s dirty work, while giving Putin plausible deniability if things go wrong.

“Prigozhin has managed to make himself useful on both the [covert and military] sides of Putin’s efforts to reassert Russia on the international stage,” Hannah Thoburn, an expert on Russia at the Hudson Institute, tells me. “[That’s] no small accomplishment for a guy who spent nine years in a Soviet prison and began his business career in restaurants.”

And Prigozhin’s rise, while deeply strange in its details, isn’t just a one-off. It speaks to a fundamental truth about the way the Putin regime operates — not just as a traditional government, but also as a kind of criminal cartel in cahoots with its wealthiest private citizens.

Most of this information has been floating out there in the cyber security world, but it’s pretty shocking to find the results of an actual Russian Troll Farm twitter storm outlined in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The fires of the Sherman Park unrest in Milwaukee had barely burned out in August 2016 before Russian Twitter trolls sought political gain by stoking the flames of racial division.

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review found that Russia-linked accounts — including one named in a recent federal indictment — sent more than 30 tweets to spread racial animus, blame Democrats for the chaos and amplify the voices of conservatives like former Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. who were commenting on Sherman Park.

These foreign accounts started posting only hours after the unrest, getting more than 5,000 retweets at a time when residents of the neighborhood were trying to clean up and overcome fears of a renewed outbreak. This came three months before the 2016 election in which President Donald Trump was elected, thanks in part to his surprise victory in Wisconsin.

The news was an unwelcome surprise for Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee), who represents Sherman Park and was present the morning after the unrest.

“To think that halfway around the world people are using this tragic series of events for partisan gain … it’s daunting. It’s heartbreaking,” Goyke said.

In its review, the newspaper found that Twitter accounts linked to Russia sought to boost Trump’s chances in Wisconsin and spread fake news to help a primary challenger to U.S. Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville. Their efforts ranged from amplifying a statement by Kenosha native and former White House Chief of staff Reince Priebus to spreading a false claim that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham had taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said the findings showed that Trump and Congress need to prevent further Russian meddling, saying it was “beyond belief” that America hadn’t done more.

“These are enemies of the United States who are trying to sow dissension in our country and on the streets of Milwaukee,” Barrett said in a statement.

Trump and allies such as U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) have retorted by saying that President Barack Obama’s administration did relatively little during the 2016 campaign and didn’t seek to impose tough sanctions until December 2016.

This is the latest. The Russian designs on the US Energy Grid is a bit more advanced than a few dudes wandering around a Kansas Nuclear plant perimeter.

The Trump administration on Thursday accused Russian government hackers of carrying out a deliberate, ongoing operation to penetrate vital U.S. industries, including the energy grid — a major ratcheting up of tensions between the two countries over cybersecurity.

It says the hackers penetrated targeted companies to a surprising degree, including copying information that could be used to gain access to the computer systems that control power plants. It’s the kind of access that experts say would have given Moscow the ability to turn off the power if it wanted to.

The alert came eight months after leaked documents revealed that federal authorities had found evidence of foreign hackers breaching computer networks in U.S. power companies, including the operator of the Wolf Creek nuclear plant in Kansas.

“Since at least March 2016, Russian government cyber actors … targeted government entities and multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, including the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors,” according to Thursday’s joint alert, issued by the Homeland Security Department and the FBI.

While the reveal isn’t a surprise to cyber watchers — researchers have been noting such digital espionage for years — it’s rare for the U.S. government to be so blunt about a foreign adversary’s cyber spying. Because the U.S. conducts its own similar online espionage campaigns around the world, intelligence officials have traditionally been loath to openly point fingers at other governments for doing the same thing.

After the alert, Energy Secretary Rick Perry warned members of a House Appropriations subcommittee Thursday that he’s “not confident” the federal government has an adequate strategy in place to address the “hundreds of thousands” of cybersecurity attacks directed at the U.S. every day.

Yup. Please remember it’s Texas’ dim bulb Rick Perry in charge of safeguarding all this. Russian hackers have attacked our energy grid.

Officials in Washington say that Russian hackers are in the midst of a widespread attack on crucial components of U.S. infrastructure, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report released Thursday.

The targets of these attacks include the country’s electric grid, including its nuclear power system, as well as “commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors,” the statement said.

The report is damning confirmation of what has for months been suspected: that hackers in Russia are capable of infiltrating and compromising vital systems relied on by millions of Americans. According to the new report, the attacks began at least as early as March 2016, thriving on vulnerabilities in these systems’ online operations.

“In some cases, information posted to company websites, especially information that may appear to be innocuous, may contain operationally sensitive information,” the report reads. “As an example, the threat actors downloaded a small photo from a publicly accessible human resources page. The image, when expanded, was a high-resolution photo that displayed control systems equipment models and status information in the background.”

What’s Perry doing and what has he told Congress?

A Russian government hacking operation aimed at the U.S. power grid did not compromise operations at any of the nation’s commercial nuclear power plants, federal regulators and the nuclear industry said Friday.

Corporate networks at some of the 99 plants licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were affected by the 2017 hack aimed at the energy grid and other infrastructure, but no safety, security or emergency preparedness functions were impacted, the NRC said in a statement.
U.S. nuclear plants are designed as operational “islands” that are not connected to the internet and other networks. Nuclear power provides about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity.
The Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry lobbying group, said the Russian hacking campaign targeting U.S. infrastructure “demonstrated that America’s nuclear plants can withstand a nation-state sponsored attack.”
The Trump administration accused Moscow on Thursday of an elaborate plot to penetrate America’s electric grid, factories, water supply and even air travel through cyber hacking.
U.S. national security officials said the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and intelligence agencies determined Russian intelligence and others were behind a broad range of cyberattacks starting a year ago. Russian hackers infiltrated the networks that run the basic services Americans rely on each day: nuclear power, water and manufacturing plants.
U.S. officials said the hackers chose their targets methodically, obtained access to computer systems, conducted “network reconnaissance” and then attempted to cover their tracks by deleting evidence of the intrusions. The U.S. government has helped the industries expel the Russians from all systems known to have been penetrated, but additional breaches could be discovered, officials said.
The NRC, in its statement Friday, said the five-member commission and the nuclear industry “are vigilant in cybersecurity. Every nuclear power facility must meet the NRC’s regulations for an approved cybersecurity program, which includes separation of critical and non-critical systems.”
Energy Secretary Rick Perry said his department worked closely with other agencies and energy providers to help ensure that hacking attempts “failed or were stopped.”
Perry said he is creating an Office of Cyber Security and Emergency Response to consolidate and strengthen efforts to “combat the growing nefarious cyber threats we face.”

Well, the Trump administration does want us back to the 19th century. Successfully bringing down our grid would certainly do it. We can assume that our elections will be hacked this year too. Aren’t you glad that West Wing chaos and Stormy Daniels are the focus of attention? Is it too late to demand paper ballots?

The first ballots of the 2018 mid-term elections will soon be cast, but many Americans will exercise this constitutional right without much confidence that their votes will be fairly and securely counted. Partisanship in Congress and bureaucratic delays have left voting even more vulnerable to the attacks that top intelligence officials say will accelerate in 2018. Meanwhile, irrefutable evidence has revealed that Russia engaged in a multifaceted attack on the 2016 election through information warfare, and that hackers also scanned or penetrated state election infrastructure in ways that could lead to manipulation of voter registration data — and possibly change vote totals in 2018. We propose two stopgap measures that can be immediately implemented without waiting for funding or new legislation.

Cybersecurity experts have repeatedly warned that none of our current voting technologies was designed to withstand the cyberattacks expected in the coming months. This national emergency calls for Americans to act immediately before the voters’ faith in democratic elections is severely undermined. Experts agree there’s time to contain major threats to this year’s elections, but we must rapidly convert from paperless touch-screen voting machines to paper ballots, and upgrade states’ and counties’ verification practices to conduct public post-election ballot audits before local election boards certify the 2018 elections. A post-election audit involves simply checking the computer-generated tabulations against paper ballots to be sure the machine hasn’t been compromised.

Well, I’ve gotten this post twice as long as you’ll likely read but read you should. There are many things that are threatening us today but none as consequential as all of this and if you believe last month’s panel of national security leaders testimony, we’re not doing much about it.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Thursday Reads

Honesty Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye, Wales

Good Morning!!

Someone in the White House was able to get Trump to agree to make a joint written statement on the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Great Britain. Business Insider reports: Trump, May, Merkel and Macron issue joint statement blaming Russia for Sergei Skripal poisoning.

LONDON — The leaders of United States, Britain, France and Germany have released a joint statement condemning Russia for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in England last week.

Donald Trump, Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel all agreed that there was “no plausible alternative explanation” than that Russia was to blame for the attack.

The leaders called on Russia to “live up to its responsibilities as a member of the UN Security Council,” adding that Russia’s actions “threaten the security of us all.”

The statement marks a significant ramping up of tensions with Russia and comes as members of the NATO council meet to discuss the crisis.

It also follows several days worth of diplomacy by May following an initial reluctance from the French and US government’s to publicly attribute the incident to Russia.

On Wednesday May announced that 23 Russian diplomats would be expelled from the UK following the attack.

Trump still has not personally spoken about the attack, and he’ll probably get a message of support to Putin somehow. After all, he can’t be caught badmouthing his boss in public. Read the full statement at the BI link.

The Strand, New York City

Yesterday Peter Baker wrote about Trump’s refusal to speak out against Putin at The New York Times: Trump, Pressured to Criticize Russia for Poisoning, Leaves Comment to Aides.

ST. LOUIS — Britain’s tough response in holding Russia responsible for a poisoning attack on its soil increased the pressure on President Trump to join with a NATO ally in taking action, even as he has been reluctant to retaliate for Moscow’s intervention in the 2016 election in the United States.

Mr. Trump, who was visiting Missouri on Wednesday, has not personally addressed the attack since London assigned blame to Russia and left it instead to aides to express public solidarity with Prime Minister Theresa May after she expelled 23 Russian diplomats, canceled high-level contacts and vowed to impose more sanctions.

“This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behavior in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes,” the White House said in a written statement. “The United States is working together with our allies and partners to ensure that this kind of abhorrent attack does not happen again.”

But for whatever reason, Mr. Trump avoided saying so personally in public, much as he has generally avoided condemning Russia for its election meddling. He has allowed top advisers to denounce Moscow for its interference in American democracy, but when it comes to his own Twitter posts or comments, he has largely stuck to equivocal language, seemingly reluctant to accept the consensus conclusion of his intelligence agencies and intent on voicing no outrage or criticism of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, for whom he has expressed admiration.

Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice

At Bloomberg, Eli Lake writes that Trump can’t get away with this shit much longer: Time’s Up: Trump Can’t Have It Both Ways on Russia.

From arming Ukraine to appointing hawkish generals like James Mattis, John Kelly and H.R. McMaster, a case could be made that Trump’s soft rhetoric on Russia was not reflected in his government’s tough measures against this adversary. After all, U.S. forces killed Russian mercenaries that attacked a U.S. base in Syria. Watch what the government does, not what the president says. (And as for those allegations of Russian support for the Trump campaign, the president has good reasons to distrust the retired intelligence chiefs who keep impugning him. A few of them endorsed his opponent.)

The expiration date on this Janus-faced approach to Russia has arrived. The specific moment was on Tuesday after Trump had fired his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. Speaking to reporters before boarding Air Force One, Trump couldn’t bring himself to endorse the findings of the British government that Russia poisoned Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the U.K. He hedged. “As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be,” he said.

Trump here is either deliberately or accidentally playing into Russia’s disinformation campaign. Since the attack last week, when the former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned with a neurological toxin developed by the former Soviet Union, Russia’s propaganda networks have flooded their airwaves with speculation about a false flag.

Selexyz Dominicanen, Maastricht, The Netherlands

Give Moscow credit. They know how to troll. One voice that keeps cropping up on the matter is Russian lawmaker Andrei Lugovoi. He says he can’t rule out that the whole thing was a provocation from the British themselves. Lugovoi has some experience when it comes to poisoning: A British public inquiry in 2016 concluded he was one of the men who irradiated former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London.

As Trump repeatedly says, “We’ll see what happens.” Let’s not forget that Trump still refuses to impose the sanctions on Russia that were overwhelmingly approved by Congress.

Apparently people in the administration other than Trump are realizing they can’t keep playing footsie with Russia in public. This just broke at Politico: U.S. imposes new sanctions on Russian entities over 2016 election meddling.

The Treasury Department on Thursday slapped new sanctions on two dozen Russian entities and individuals for interfering in the 2016 election and conducting a series of damaging cyberattacks.

“The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in U.S. elections, destructive cyberattacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia.”

Shakespeare and Company, Paris

Mnuchin added that Treasury is planning to impose additional sanctions “to hold Russian government officials and oligarchs accountable for their destabilizing activities by severing their access to the U.S. financial system.” [….]

Thursday’s sanctions go after the individuals that special counsel Robert Mueller indicted last month for participating in a sweeping plot to use online trolls to inflame social divides and undermine faith in U.S. institutions during the 2016 election.

The sanctions target the Internet Research Agency, the Russian organization that Mueller’s team alleged was responsible for the extensive online trolling effort, that court documents say was years in the making, involving millions of dollars and potentially hundreds of individuals.

So that’s interesting. Again, we’ll see what happens.

You probably heard about Trump’s disgusting performance at a private fund-raiser in St. Louis last night in which he bragged about making up “facts” in a meeting with Canada’s Justin Trudeau. The Washington Post reports:

President Trump boasted in a fundraising speech Wednesday that he made up information in a meeting with the leader of a top U.S. ally, saying he insisted to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the United States runs a trade deficit with its neighbor to the north without knowing whether that was true.

Atlantis Books, Oía, Santorini, Greece

“Trudeau came to see me. He’s a good guy, Justin. He said, ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please,’ ” Trump said, mimicking Trudeau, according to audio of the private event in Missouri obtained by The Washington Post. “Nice guy, good-looking guy, comes in — ‘Donald, we have no trade deficit.’ He’s very proud because everybody else, you know, we’re getting killed.

“… So, he’s proud. I said, ‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know. … I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid. … And I thought they were smart. I said, ‘You’re wrong, Justin.’ He said, ‘Nope, we have no trade deficit.’ I said, ‘Well, in that case, I feel differently,’ I said, ‘but I don’t believe it.’ I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out, I said, ‘Check, because I can’t believe it.’

‘Well, sir, you’re actually right. We have no deficit, but that doesn’t include energy and timber. … And when you do, we lose $17 billion a year.’ It’s incredible.”

That last bit isn’t true either.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative says the United States has a trade surplus with Canada. It reports that in 2016, the United States exported $12.5 billion more in goods and services than it imported from Canada, leading to a trade surplus, not a deficit.

You can read the entire repulsive transcript at the WaPo. It just a bunch of stream-of-consciousness nonsense. And this *thing* is supposedly the president of the U.S. {Gagging}

I have a lot more stories to recommend, so I’ll give yo the rest in link dump fashion.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires

The Atlantic: Telling the Truth About CIA Torture.

The Daily Beast: ‘She Should Be in Jail’—Rights Groups Rally to Stop Torture Overseer Turned Trump CIA Pick Gina Haspel.

Axios: In Trumpworld, nobody knows anything.

Just Security: How Trump Might Replace Sessions with Pruitt as Attorney General.

The Post and Courier: Dylann Roof’s sister arrested for carrying weapons to school on day of national walkout.

CNN: Another Trump attorney involved in Stormy Daniels case.

Politico: BuzzFeed maneuver could free Stormy Daniels to speak on Trump.

CNN: Is North Korea’s silence on the Trump-Kim summit a worry?

Vox: The real problem with the New York Times op-ed page: it’s not honest about US conservatism.

Politico: Extreme secrecy surrounds Comey book manuscript.

Vanity Fair: Trump Wants Them Out of There: After Swinging the Axe at Tillerson, Trump Mulls What to Do with McMaster, Sessions, Jared and Ivanka.

NOTE: The bookstore photos are from an article at the Literary Hub: THE 10 MOST FAMOUS BOOKSTORES IN THE WORLD. See more photos and read about the bookstores there.

So . . . what stories are you following today?


Wednesday Reads: Too Close and Too F’d Up

Well, as I write this post…the election in PA is too close to call…and it is up to the absentee ballots. I will have the latest results posted below:

**NBC has called this an apparent win for Lamb**

See time stamp on that tweet for reference.

News broke last night that Stephen Hawking passed away:

Now for the cartoons:

Local Election: 03/13/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Local Election

Saccone Disclaimers: 03/11/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Saccone Disclaimers

03/13/2018 Cartoon by Tom Stiglich

Cartoon by Tom Stiglich -

Digital Attack: 03/13/2018 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Digital Attack

WANTING JOB: 03/07/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - WANTING JOB

Nick Anderson cartoon: 03/13/2018 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson - Nick Anderson cartoon

Nick Anderson cartoon: 03/10/2018 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson - Nick Anderson cartoon

Nick Anderson cartoon: 03/08/2018 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson - Nick Anderson cartoon

03/12/2018 Cartoon by Tom Stiglich

Cartoon by Tom Stiglich -

03/13/2018 Cartoon by David Cohen

Cartoon by David Cohen -

03/09/2018 Cartoon by David Cohen

Cartoon by David Cohen -

Trump’s Small Pause: 03/13/2018 Cartoon by Steve Artley

Cartoon by Steve Artley - Trump's Small Pause

Protectionism: 03/09/2018 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Protectionism

03/13/2018 Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies

Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies -

03/12/2018 Cartoon by David Horsey

Cartoon by David Horsey -

03/11/2018 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

03/08/2018 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

Uh…I really don’t like the comparison of Clarice to Trump…

This is an open thread….