Thursday Reads: If Only We Had A Woman President

With the forecast calling for heavy snow, there were plenty of parking spots available, as well as very light traffic, so much so that a pedestrian could cross the street unimpeded on Beacon Street at 5:45 p.m., normally the height of rush hour. –Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Good Morning!!

The snowpocalypse never materialized in Boston, after we were told to expect up to 14 inches of the white stuff. I know it was bad in some places to the south of us. But not to worry, there’s another snow event coming this weekend. Meteorologist David Epstein explains:

I can tell you with a lot of certainty that it’s very frustrating for any meteorologist to miss a forecast, but it’s also humbling. It’s just a fact of the matter: The atmosphere is incredibly complicated and always will be.

Meteorologically, the storm never really got its act together because too much dry air ate away at the precipitation shield on the northern and western flank.

Whatever that means.

Of course, there are always computer models that we all use to guide us, but frankly, their performance hasn’t been as good in the past few weeks.

Although the models successfully understood a storm would form, they did a poor job of placing the precipitation within the storm. I suspect the unusual blocking pattern that we are in is throwing the models for a loop.

While the European model did a better job forecasting this system than other models, it also was way overdone. But in other recent storms, other models have outperformed the Euro, so it’s dangerous to just follow one model.

For example, if we had believed the NAM model on Wednesday morning, we would have forecast 10 to 15 inches of snow in Boston. This model accurately predicted the amount of snow seen in New York, but it arced the precipitation band way too far to the northwest.

Weather nerds (Dakinikat) can read the rest at The Boston Globe. The good news for us is that we didn’t get a lot more snow added to what was already on the ground. Now we look ahead to the next storm and hope for the weather trend to become more springlike soon.

At least the weather provides a distraction from the ongoing nightmare of the Trump “presidency.” The news of Trump family corruption is coming thick and fast these days; but before I get to some of that, here’s another distraction: two annoying old white men threatening to beat each other up.

Creepy Uncle Joe

ABC News: Biden says he would have ‘beat the hell out’ of Trump in high school for disrespecting women.

Former Vice President Joe Biden took fresh jabs at President Donald Trump on Tuesday while speaking at an anti-sexual assault rally, telling students at the University of Miami that he probably would have “beat the hell out” of Trump if they’d attended school together.

“A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, ‘I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it,'” Biden said. “They asked me if I’d like to debate this gentleman, and I said ‘no.’ I said, ‘If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.'”

“I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms my whole life,” Biden continued. “I’m a pretty damn good athlete. Any guy that talked that way was usually the fattest, ugliest S.O.B. in the room.”

Naturally Trump responded on Twitter.

The Washington Post: Septuagenarian smackdown? Trump, Biden trade fighting words.

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are in a rhetorical smackdown over who could clean the other’s clock in a brawl.

Biden, 75, made similar comments in the closing days of the 2016 campaign. He has kept open the possibility of a 2020 bid for president and is gearing up to play a big role campaigning for Democrats running in this year’s midterm elections.

Trump, 71, dismissed the prospect of a Biden run recently at the annual Gridiron Dinner with Washington journalists, calling him “Sleepy Joe” and saying he could “kick his ass.” Trump also attacked Biden on Twitter in 2016, calling him “Our not very bright Vice President.”

This is just plain embarrassing. Connor Friedersdorf reacts to Trump’s “bluster” at The Atlantic: 

Donald Trump is an undignified lout who cannot master his own emotions enough to be anything better….

No recent president would’ve publicly degraded himself in this manner. Neither would a teenager of slightly above-average maturity. Yet Trump is unembarrassed, and unapologetic, for the damage he does to America’s reputation.

Americans have grown used to conduct of this sort because Trump engages in it so often. But bygone generations would be appalled by how he comports himself. And every instance of such behavior causes the world to look upon the U.S. the same way that most Americans look upon the real housewives of New Jersey.

Frankly, Biden isn’t much better. Why, oh why couldn’t we have a woman president? Speaking of which, did you see this exchange on Twitter yesterday? People were attacking a woman writer, Roxanne Gay–what else is new?–because she tweeted that Justice League was a bad movie. She responded:

The attacks continued. But guess who really liked that tweet?

The attackers didn’t like Gay’s response to that either.

Yes, people really did try to explain to her that Hillary isn’t president. Sigh . . . being a famous woman is really hard. Misogyny is utterly pervasive in this country.

Hillary’s former communications director Jennifer Palmieri has a new book coming out: Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World. Time Magazine has an excerpt: Inside the Last Days of the Hillary Clinton Campaign.

It’s the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 9. We are at the New Yorker Hotel and Hillary has just finished her concession speech. I decide to just nod and smile wistfully when supporters and reporters, men and women alike, laud Hillary’s concession speech. “Where was ‘this Hillary’ during the campaign?” they would lament. “Why didn’t we see this side of her when it mattered?”

Yes, I am sure you loved her concession speech, I thought to myself. Because that’s what you think is acceptable for a woman to do — concede.

Not just the right wing media . . .

Had I never left the Obama White House to be part of the campaign, I am sure I would have asked the same question. I probably would have printed out the transcript of her remarks, and pored over them, trying to isolate the essence of what she had said that made this speech so much more appealing than anything she had said during the campaign. And I wouldn’t have found it. Because I needed to have the experience of working for a female presidential candidate to understand that why we liked “this Hillary” so much better than “candidate Hillary.” Fundamentally it wasn’t about the words she used in her concession speech but what she represented. She was no longer a woman pushing to be president. She was a gracious loser putting the needs of her country above her own. It was the role of Hillary as an ambitious candidate that troubled us.

We think a woman shines best when she is selflessly putting others’ interest above her own. It is more flattering than seeking her own spotlight.

I have to tell you that when I first joined Hillary’s campaign, I didn’t think it was going to be that hard or even that big of a deal to elect the first woman president. Let’s just say after having gone through this campaign, I have a different perspective.

Read the rest at the link.

Now let’s turn to the latest Trump administration scandals. This time it’s Jared Kushner in the Spotlight.

The Intercept: Saudi Crown Prince Boasted That Jared Kushner Was “In His Pocket.”

We’ve all heard about how Jared has been reading all that classified information in the PDB–the president’s daily brief. Well it looks like he may have shared some of it with his pal Mohammed bin Salman.

In June, Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman ousted his cousin, then-Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and took his place as next in line to the throne, upending the established line of succession. In the months that followed, the President’s Daily Brief contained information on Saudi Arabia’s evolving political situation, including a handful of names of royal family members opposed to the crown prince’s power grab, according to the former White House official and two U.S. government officials with knowledge of the report. Like many others interviewed for this story, they declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak about sensitive matters to the press.

In late October, Jared Kushner made an unannounced trip to Riyadh, catching some intelligence officials off guard. “The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy,” the Washington Post’s David Ignatius reported at the time.

What exactly Kushner and the Saudi royal talked about in Riyadh may be known only to them, but after the meeting, Crown Prince Mohammed told confidants that Kushner had discussed the names of Saudis disloyal to the crown prince, according to three sources who have been in contact with members of the Saudi and Emirati royal families since the crackdown. Kushner, through his attorney’s spokesperson, denies having done so….

On November 4, a week after Kushner returned to the U.S., the crown prince, known in official Washington by his initials MBS, launched what he called an anti-corruption crackdown. The Saudi government arrested dozens of members of the Saudi royal family and imprisoned them in the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh, which was first reported in English by The Intercept. The Saudi figures named in the President’s Daily Brief were among those rounded up; at least one was reportedly tortured.

Read the rest at The Intercept.

The New York Times: How 2 Gulf Monarchies Sought to Influence the White House.

A cooperating witness in the special counsel investigation worked for more than a year to turn a top Trump fund-raiser into an instrument of influence at the White House for the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to interviews and previously undisclosed documents.

Hundreds of pages of correspondence between the two men reveal an active effort to cultivate President Trump on behalf of the two oil-rich Arab monarchies, both close American allies.

Dave Granlund /

High on the agenda of the two men — George Nader, a political adviser to the de facto ruler of the U.A.E., and Elliott Broidy, the deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee — was pushing the White House to remove Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, backing confrontational approaches to Iran and Qatar and repeatedly pressing the president to meet privately outside the White House with the leader of the U.A.E.

Mr. Tillerson was fired last week, and the president has adopted tough approaches toward both Iran and Qatar.

A bit more from the NYT piece:

Mr. Nader tempted the fund-raiser, Mr. Broidy, with the prospect of more than $1 billion in contracts for his private security company, Circinus, and he helped deliver deals worth more than $200 million with the United Arab Emirates. He also flattered Mr. Broidy about “how well you handle Chairman,” a reference to Mr. Trump, and repeated to his well-connected friend that he told the effective rulers of both Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. about “the Pivotal Indispensable Magical Role you are playing

George Nader with Trump

to help them.”

Mr. Nader’s cultivation of Mr. Broidy, laid out in documents provided to The New York Times, provides a case study in the way two Persian Gulf monarchies have sought to gain influence inside the Trump White House. Mr. Nader has been granted immunity in a deal for his cooperation with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, according to people familiar with the matter, and his relationship with Mr. Broidy may also offer clues to the direction of that inquiry.

Mr. Nader has now been called back from abroad to provide additional testimony, one person familiar with the matter said this week. Mr. Mueller’s investigators have already asked witnesses about Mr. Nader’s contacts with top Trump administration officials and about his possible role in funneling Emirati money to Mr. Trump’s political efforts, a sign that the investigation has broadened to examine the role of foreign money in the Trump administration.

The documents contain evidence not previously reported that Mr. Nader also held himself out as intermediary for Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who met with Mr. Trump on Tuesday in the Oval Office at the beginning of a tour of the United States to meet with political and business leaders.

Rachel Maddow talked about this story at length last night, and she said the Special Counsel has called Nader back from abroad. But The Daily Mail is claims that Nader has fled: EXCLUSIVE: Mueller probe witness who met Jared Kushner and was ‘best friends’ with Steve Bannon flees the country after being revealed as a pedophile. Summary of the story:

  • Robert Mueller co-operating witness George Nader has  fled the United States for the United Arab Emirates, reveals
  • Nader, a convicted pedophile, was allegedly a paid adviser for the UAE’s de facto ruler Mohammed bin Zayef and had close ties to the Trump administration
  • He has been interviewed twice by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his probe into Russian meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign
  • The Lebanese-born adviser was first stopped when he flew into Washington in January on his way to visit Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort
  • Nader has been cooperating with investigators following the stop and his lawyer said he ‘truthfully answered questions’
  • Investigators are interested in a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between bin Zayef, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon which Nader was at and may have brokered
  • They also want to about a meeting he was at in the Seychelles, attended by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and UAE’s de-facto ruler Mohammed bin Zayed

One more Kushner scandal from the AP: NYC agency investigating more than a dozen Kushner buildings.

New York City’s buildings regulator launched investigations at more than a dozen Kushner Cos. properties Wednesday following an Associated Press report that the real estate developer routinely filed false paperwork claiming it had zero rent-regulated tenants in its buildings across the city.

The Department of Buildings is investigating possible “illegal activity” involving applications that sought permission to begin construction work at 13 of the developer’s buildings, according to public records maintained by the regulator. The AP reported Sunday that Kushner Cos. stated in more than 80 permit applications that it had zero rent-regulated tenants in its buildings when it, in fact, had hundreds.

The false filings were made while Kushner Cos. was run by Jared Kushner, now senior adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump. The false filings were all signed by a Kushner employee, sometimes by its chief operating officer. None were signed by Jared Kushner himself.

The false documents allowed the Kushner Cos. to escape extra scrutiny during construction at 34 of its buildings, many which showed a sharp decline in rent-regulated units following the work. Housing Rights Initiative, a watchdog group that uncovered the false filings, says that made it easier for the Kushner Cos. to harass the low-paying, rent-regulated tenants so they would leave, freeing up apartments for higher-paying tenants.

The Kushner Cos. said Wednesday that it is the victim of “politically motivated attacks.” It said it values and respects its tenants and operates under “the highest legal and ethical standards.”

I wonder if Jared and Ivanka are beginning to wish that Hillary had won?

There are more Trump scandals, but I have to wrap this up. What stories are you following?



Wednesday Afternoon Reads: Late Afternoon

Ed Hall,


Sorry so late, my mom had her endoscopy today…he stomach looks the same so I guess this is good?

At any rate, the thread is late…and it will be short. As you know now, the Austin bomber blew himself up to pieces.

Austin bomber: Mark Anthony Conditt identified as suspect, killed in blast as police closed in – The Washington Post

The suspected serial bomber who terrorized Austin with a string of exploding packages died early Wednesday after detonating an explosive device in his vehicle as police closed in on him, authorities said.

Austin police and the FBI tracked him to a hotel parking lot in Round Rock, Tex., about 18 miles north of the Texas capital, and found his vehicle there, Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said. Officers wanted to wait for tactical units to arrive before trying to take him into custody, but he started to drive away.

The man stopped on the side of the Interstate 35 frontage road, and as Austin SWAT officers approached, he detonated a bomb, knocking one of the officers backward and injuring him, Manley said.

More at the link of course…

I just want to share two more links with you before we get to some cartoons:


Zuckerberg saved tens of millions of dollars by selling Facebook stock ahead of Monday’s decline – MarketWatch

Ahead of Facebook’s worst one-day decline since 2012, prompted by news that data affecting 51.3 million members was improperly shared with a political consulting firm, Zuckerberg had been busy selling stock. So far this year, he has sold more than 5 million shares.

Disposing of those Facebook shares FB, +0.04% before Tuesday ended up saving about $70 million, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings and some arithmetic by MarketWatch. At Tuesday’s close, the 5.4 million shares Zuckerberg has sold this year under a predetermined plan would be worth $910 million. Zuckerberg made about $980 million selling those shares, according to calculations using average weighted prices reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Zuckerberg is a real mutthafukker.

I hope you can see this video:

This special village plants 111 trees whenever a girl is born.


Now the funnies:

Hey, this cartoon reminds me of the paintings in those Hammer films…starring Vincent Price:


Every damn day there is a smoking gun…when the hell is Mueller going to do something?

Mark Zuckerberg: 03/21/2018 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Mark Zuckerberg

Mark fuckerberg: 03/21/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Mark fuckerberg

DIG!!: 03/16/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - DIG!!

Bruce Plante Cartoon: Putin in a landslide: 03/21/2018 Cartoon by Bruce Plante

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Bruce Plante Cartoon: Putin in a landslide

Bruce Plante Cartoon: #adults nowadays: 03/20/2018 Cartoon by Bruce Plante

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Bruce Plante Cartoon: #adults nowadays

Gerrymander Basket: 03/21/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Gerrymander Basket

Assault on reason: 03/21/2018 Cartoon by Jen Sorensen

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - Assault on reason


This is an open thread…stay warm.

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?