Tuesday, May 23, 2017

5+1 Thoughts for May 23, 2017


  1. ISP Outage: Right now my ISP is experiencing a major outage and I can tell that I'm not the only one because they operate an open WiFi network and when I connect to it, it doesn't have internet access either. So how am I accessing the internet? Via my smartphone's WiFi hotspot. This isn't the first time I've had to do this, either, but it highlights the importance of having a smartphone. Without the internet, I can't access multiple services I normally use in my workflow. It could be tied to a power outage a half-dozen blocks from here, and if it is, then it sounds like my ISP will be out until late tonight.
  2. Terrible Three: There are a lot of really bad cabinet members in Donald's administration, but the top three, absolutely disgusting, most corrupt (financially or intellectually) folks are Tom Price, Mick Mulvaney, and Betsy DeVos. I give these three less than a year before they either quit or are kicked out. Tom Price is ethically challenged, showing just how little the GOP care about ethics when it comes to one of their own as they confirmed Price's nomination even with his lies about his stock trades and finances. Aside from being intellectually corrupted by his politics and greed, Mick Mulvaney also can't seem to figure out what ethics are. Besty DeVos is just plain stupid, which in itself wouldn't qualify her as a member of the Terrible Three, except that she vocally demonstrates her idiocy all the time.
  3. US-Russia: We are not exactly enemies, but we are not exactly close friends either. We are both partners -- ISS -- and geopolitical foes -- Afghanistan, North Korea, Ukraine, etc. This complexity trips up a lot of people, as you might expect. Recently, my friend told me about her kids who think it's no big deal that Russia tried to interfere with US elections because we have, in the past, interfered with the elections of others. That's a logical fallacy -- two wrongs make a right -- and I find it disturbing. It isn't right if we directly interfere with anyone else's elections, and it's not okay for Russia to interfere with ours. There is no equivocation on this matter. Once you slide down that slippery slope, you can excuse any of your actions.
  4. From Cold to Hot: In a matter of a week, Portland's high temperatures have jumped from highs in the upper 50s to the lower 90s. For one day, tomorrow, the high temperature is supposed to drop back to mid-60s. Crazy!
  5. Sling AirTV Player: Having installed it for a friend, I can positively report back that the AirTV player and its incorporation of OTA broadcast channels directly into the UI and channel lineup from Sling subscription works extremely well. The hardest part of the entire process was installing the ISP modem, particularly because the modem purchased from Amazon was defective. Right now they have a deal where the player is $50 if you prepay for 3-months of service -- technically worth $60 but MSRP is an irrelevant number -- which is something I might grab if it's still available in early September when football season kicks up.
+1: It's an act of cowardice to attack young women and children, always.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Marc Thiessen's False Flag

Today, WaPo conservative commentator Marc Thiessen offered up a false flag on Donald's leaking of Israel's intelligence. By pointing the finger at the news media -- who reported in subsequent stories that Israel was indeed the source of the material that was provided to Russia -- Thiessen is hoping that you'll ignore the inconvenient truths.

Inconvenient Truth #1

The news media hadn't reported on the event until five days after the meeting in which Donald had revealed the intelligence to Russian officials in the White House. Regardless of the reporting of the event, the Russian government had the information in hand -- the damage was done at that point, not at the point where the press reported on it.

Why does this matter? Because Russia would have passed it on to its partners in the Middle-East -- Syria and Iran, who would have applied their own intelligence abilities to determine the source and people involved.

Inconvenient Truth #2

It didn't require advanced knowledge of the ME to guess that the source was Israel. I wrote last week about it:
There is one source whose information is so sensitive that US does not automatically share it with others: Israel.
Israel has deeply embedded spies all around the ME, relying more on human intelligence than the US' preferred method of technological intelligence.

Russia has spies in countries that are partners with the US -- the so-called Five Eyes -- as well as within the ME and could ably discern that this intelligence hadn't been shared with anyone else, therefore, likely came from Israel.

Inconvenient Truth #3

Donald never got permission from Israel to share this intelligence with Russia. If the US had been reluctant to share this very intelligence with its closest allies, then sharing it with a geopolitical foe is a perverse shattering of trust. That is the real problem. Going forward, Donald is isolating America from the rest of the world but not in a good way.

Friday, May 19, 2017

How Rod Rosenstein Got Pwnd

Previously, I had done a deep dive into Rod Rosenstein's letter, indicating that it did not do or say what the media had portrayed it as. Today, in his statements to closed committee Congressional meetings, Rosenstein clarified this point.
"My memorandum is not a legal brief; these are not issues of law.
My memorandum is not a finding of official misconduct; the Inspector General will render his judgment about that issue in due course.
My memorandum is not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination.
My memorandum is not a survey of FBI morale or performance.
My memorandum is not a press release.
It is a candid internal memorandum about the FBI Director’s public statements concerning a high-profile criminal investigation."
As I stated then, it was a territorial pissing match between the FBI and DoJ, period. For whatever "wrongs" Comey may have committed, Rosenstein clearly articulated that he was not concerned at any official misconduct, violations of law, or looking to provide the basis of a for-cause termination.

Violating norms are acceptable if there is a reasonable explanation for the violation -- norms, after all, aren't codified laws -- and this is what differentiates Donald's wanton abuse of norms from Comey's departures from them.
"In one of my first meetings with then-Senator Jeff Sessions last winter, we discussed the need for new leadership at the FBI. Among the concerns that I recall were to restore the credibility of the FBI, respect the established authority of the Department of Justice, limit public statements and eliminate leaks."
When Rosenstein presents "credibility" of the FBI as a concern, it comes off as paternalistic: We at the DoJ know what's best for the FBI. Like I said, pissing match.

Rosenstein's apparent chumminess with Donald and Sessions ended up costing him dearly. Donald took advantage of Rosenstein's clear disaffection for Comey's actions and pwnd Rosenstein.

Consider, Rosenstein admits openly that he spoke with Sessions about his feelings over Comey's actions before Sessions would be appointed AG by Donald, and months later Rosenstein would find himself appointed to Deputy AG. I scratch your back, you scratch mine -- what did Rosenstein think would happen when he was asked to pen a memo on his thoughts about Comey?

Rosenstein got pwnd, not realizing that he was being lured into quid pro quo.

Rosenstein's first move to counteract being pwnd was to let it be known publicly that he had threatened to resign unless Donald's team had set the record straight. His second move was to let it be known that Donald was planning to fire Comey before the memo was written.

Neither of those actions relieved the taint, however, of possible quid pro quo.

His appointment of a special counsel to oversee the investigations involving Donald and his campaign was the third move and the one that likely removes the stench from stepping into the pig pen.

All this drama because of Rosenstein's territorial pissing match.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Donald Shared Classified Intel With Russia (UPDATED 2X)

The word from WaPo is that Donald shared, with Russia, a foreign partner's intelligence so sensitive, not even our other allies knew about it. He's playing Establishment Republicans and the far-right for fools, destroying the Republic before our eyes, under their willingness to let him get away with anything.

Why?

Tax cuts, Gorsuch, and the repeal of the ACA -- that's it.

Normally, it is called Treason. Republicans, instead, look the other way and call it a Nothingburger.

The information that was shared was related to the Islamic State. There is one source whose information is so sensitive that US does not automatically share it with others: Israel.

It's being labeled as accidental, but it's perfectly following the script of the Obama Administration's worst fears. Before the Obama Administration departed, Israel's Ynet (via the Telegraph) broke the story:
"The Israelis who attended the meeting said that the Americans advised them not to expose any sensitive sources to members of the Trump administration, lest that information reach Iranian hands, until it becomes clear that Trump does not have a compromised relationship with Russia and is not vulnerable to extortion."
Even the most forgiving reading suggests that Donald has loose lips (that sink ships). He cannot be trusted. And neither can Republicans be trusted to maintain the Republic.


UPDATE: Rex Tillerson, Dina Powell and H.R. McMaster all sent or read out statements using matching language in a categorical denial, tarnishing themselves in the process.

  • "The story that came out tonight as reported is false." -- never actually identifies Washington Post's story as "this story"; this is a common misdirection used by people who are professionals at white lies. If you weren't trying to lie, you would instead say, "The Washington Post story that came out tonight is false."
  • "The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation" -- essentially confirming WaPo's story on the subject matter.
  • "At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly" -- denies things that were never actually asserted in the WaPo report.
  • "Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of the state, remember the meeting the same way and have said so" -- is not a denial of the WaPo report.
  • "Going on the record should outweigh the anonymous sources" is something everyone says but has little to do with the veracity of the stories; I suggest reporters challenge these folks to place themselves in real legal jeopardy and go on the record with Congress, under oath to testify about what happened. If they refuse to testify or otherwise offer up obfuscated and obtuse answers, you know why.
  • "I was in the room. It didn’t happen" -- is ambiguous as we don't know what "it" is referring to.

You don't need a law degree, you just need to carefully parse the particular word choices people use. That all three used very similar statements and language is a strong tell. That H.R. McMaster read from a written statement is another tell.

Attempting to defend the indefensible actions of a careless and stupid man is dangerous. Each misstep Donald takes now comes with personal liability to his defenders.

UPDATE 2: Confirmed, it was Israel. Bibi will undoubtedly minimize the damage, even if Donald's actions result in Israel's source being killed -- Bibi and Donald share a special relationship that rises above national interests for both Israel and US.

Coming up, Donald's European Vacation. What could go wrong?!?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What's Going On?

This is such a weird moment in American history.

Front and center, POTUS is openly stating that he breached protocols separating Justice and Executive -- possible grounds for impeachment -- even implicating his own staff and VP in the spread of lies by directly contradicting everything that they had been saying for the past two days.

With the media focused on the circus, they haven't quite yet realized the magnitude of the big picture: Trump's campaign and his associates are involved in multiple grand juries covering dozens of indictments and now, the first of the raids have begun.

Most people don't quite realize that there are three veins of criminal investigations and they're not necessarily all under the tent of the FBI.

  • Vein A: Russian interference and the collusion question.
  • Vein B: Illegal Russian money (wiretap fraud, tax evasion, violations of sanctions) involved in Trump, his corporation, and people associated with Trump.
  • Vein C: Skirting of laws by various Trump associates, related to influence peddling by Russia.
Are they all tied together? If they are, then the big picture is so grotesquely large that it will eclipse Watergate and become the impetus to turn protocols and rules into laws.

5 Thoughts on James Comey's Firing

A quick note. I meant to write this up two days ago, and it was pretty much written up by yesterday, but I'd been consumed by other stuff.
  1. It is Nixonian: Through a literal filter, there are many people who believe that what happened was not Nixonian. Yet, the basis for Donald's actions is rooted in the same egocentric, maniacal narcissism of Nixon. It is why Nixon acted with impunity in directing the Watergate break-in, cover-up, and attempts to forestall his impeachment. We may not yet be at the same point in time of Nixon's impending impeachment but Donald is most certainly attempting to cover up his actions.
  2. No Mere Coincidence: The Deputy AG's memo, AG Sessions' memo, and Donald's letters are all dated today. Contrast that to the 18-day gap between the time when Sally Yates informed the White House about Mike Flynn and when they finally fired him. Now, understand that there was already an independent inquiry into Comey's actions. Donald bypassed that independent inquiry. Apparently, he asked for the DoJ to manufacture a reason to fire Comey and they complied; as soon as he received his excuse, he had a letter typed up, signed it, then used his personal bodyguard to deliver it to the FBI.
  3. A Sign of Loyalties: As Republicans one by one offer up their responses, look carefully, for you may see a sign of loyalty -- either to Country or to Party -- offered up. The Establishment will always reflexively respond with a signal of loyalty to Party, always the last ones out the door before the structure collapses.
  4. What's the Fireable Offense?: I've re-read Rod Rosenstein's letter multiple times, and he never identified a reason to fire the Director of the FBI. He wrote about violations of protocols, but protocols are lower than rules which are lower than laws. He wrote about the loss of confidence from Congress and the public, but that's hardly a fireable offense. Despite his low support numbers, Donald remains in office; if we're comparing actions, Donald's made many more consequential errors of judgment in the last four months than Comey has done his entire career.
  5. The DoJ v FBI v Donald: Rosenstein's letter did not cite current or former FBI officials. He identified former AGs and deputy AGs, instead, when citing the effects of Comey's actions as detrimental to the process. Rosenstein's letter, if read outside of the context of Donald, is a pissing match between the FBI and the DoJ. Add the context of Donald and what you get is Donald attempting to politically marginalize the FBI. If Congress does not stand up for the FBI, all is lost and Donald may become the dictator he pines to be.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Rod Rosenstein's Letter Does Not Recommend Firing (Updated)

Rod Rosenstein, who was confirmed as the Deputy AG just two weeks ago, wrote the memo that served as the basis for AG Sessions to recommend firing James Comey and for Donald to immediately follow through on the same day. While most have concluded that Rosenstein's letter called for or recommended Comey to be fired, it does not.

In law, clear language imparts a different outcome from obfuscated or indirect language, and as such, this distinction may be used tactically to one's own advantage. Rosenstein used careful language to avoid a direct statement; instead, people are reading between the lines and producing an interpretation of this careful language. In other words, as you continue reading this post, you may roll your eyes at the difference between the literal and perceived, but the difference is distinctive in law.

Let's review the last paragraph where Rosenstein's letter reaches certain conclusions.
"Although the President has the power to remove an FBI director, the decision should not be taken lightly."
Rather than advocating his removal, Rosenstein is clearly warning Donald that removing Comey is a serious matter that should not be taken in haste. I reiterate, Donald fired Comey on the same day he received both this memo and Sessions' letter -- the perfect example of a hasty act.
"I agree with the nearly unanimous opinions of former Department officials."
What Rosenstein is concurring to, is the criticism that Comey failed to follow protocols set up to avoid the optics of political influence inside of Justice / FBI.
"The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong."
Most everyone knew this already. The only holdouts were those who were hypocritically embracing Comey's actions for the purpose of advancing Donald's candidacy. The question is, is being "wrong" a fireable offense? Since what Comey did was not illegal, firing him requires a considerate judgment of how the "wrong" afflicts and affects the Bureau. It is not a direct route to firing.
"As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them."
By using the word "unlikely", Rosenstein avoids creating a clear route to firing Comey. "Unlikely" does not mean impossible; rather, it means that you shouldn't be surprised when the #1 seed in a tourney fails to win the championship. See: University of Connecticut Women's Basketball.

Calling out "until it has a director" is not the advocation of a new director. If, for instance, Comey were to come out and state that he "understands the gravity of the mistakes" and that he "pledges never to repeat them", in effect he becomes that director Rosenstein is advocating for.
"Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions."
By using the phrase "cannot be expected", Rosenstein again avoids creating a clear route to firing Comey. If Rosenstein were direct, he would have stated, "Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot implement the necessary corrective actions." See the stark difference? In one instance the door is left partially open, in the other, the door is completely shut.

So why did he write his memo in this manner?

For one, it's probably not in his place to recommend firing the Director of the FBI, and instead, simply lays out the analysis for others higher up to review and come to their own conclusions. Alternatively, there are other signals within the letter pointing to an attempt to lay the blame for an inevitable firing of Comey at the feet of Jeff Sessions and Donald. I suppose we may soon find out.



UPDATE:

  • Rod Rosenstein threatened to quit the moment the WH tried to pin the firing of Comey on him.
  • He has also sought out, on his initiative, to speak to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
  • The Acting head of the FBI refutes the idea that morale within the FBI had been affected by Comey's actions.
The White House's lies are catching up to them quickly. If the WH staff or political appointees start quitting, that'll be the signal that the end is near.