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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

From Russian Hacks to Russian Collusion: Where’s the Beef?

The Daily Escape:

Image of Saturn taken from the Cassini spacecraft on July 19, 2013

Wrongo has read much of the evidence that Russia interfered with the 2016 US Presidential election. He has watched House and Senate committees ask the intelligence community and the Justice Department what is known and not known about the Russian hacking story.

 It is clear that the Russians have extremely capable cyber technicians. They have a pragmatic view about getting what they need strategically, so it is both feasible and possible that they could have been disruptive to our democratic process.

But is there actual evidence that Russia interfered in our elections in 2016? And if they did, is there evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with them? The answer so far is summed up by Caitlin Johnstone:

Russiagate is like a mirage: from a distance it looks like something, but once you move in for a closer look, there’s nothing there. Nothing. Nothing solid, nothing substantial, nothing you can point at and say, “Here it is. This hard evidence justifies saturating the media waves with obsessive 24/7 coverage, escalating tensions with a nuclear superpower, stagnating political discourse in America and fanning the flames of a hysterical, xenophobic McCarthyist feeding frenzy.”

Most of what we know comes from the intelligence assessment by James Clapper when he was the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) for Obama; Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections. Here are the conclusions:

  • We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.
  • Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.
  • We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.
  • Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls.”

From Sic Semper Tyrannis:

The assessment says Russia did three basic things to “influence” the Presidential election. First, the NSA, CIA and, to a lesser extent, the FBI, believed that the Russians hacked into the DNC and John Podesta emails, then passed that content to WikiLeaks and DC Leaks, who subsequently published the information. Second, the Russians supposedly obtained access to “elements” (undefined) of US state or local electoral boards. Third, Russian media outlets, RT and Sputnik News, put out Kremlin friendly messages.

There is no evidence backing up the claim that the Russian intelligence service hacked the DNC and Podesta that has been presented to the American people. The FBI did not conduct a forensic examination of the computers of either the DNC or of Podesta. The belief that the Russians did it is based on an independent firm, Crowdstrike’s examination of the DNC emails. Moreover, the release of Podesta’s emails had little to no effect on the election, while the Comey on-and-off-and on again investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails were certainly damaging to her electoral chances.

The larger point is that Democrats have convinced themselves that getting rid of Trump justifies throwing pasta (or any other sticky substance) at the wall to see what sticks. And that is what is happening with the “all Russia, all the time” hearings in the House and Senate.

An important subtext to this whole Russian conspiracy theory is the insistence that the Trump campaign colluded with Vladimir Putin to sabotage Hillary’s campaign.  That is repeated endlessly on the cable channels, and has become an article of faith to many Americans, especially Democrats. But, a few meetings do not create collusion. Possibly the intelligence community has some proof, but it has not been presented in a form that inspires credibility.

About a month ago, the DOJ appointed a Special Counsel to ferret out what is real from what is fake in the allegations about Russiagate, from hacks to collusion.

Let’s hope that he gets to the bottom of the story.

In the meantime, stay focused on the potential damage that Messrs. Trump, McConnell and Ryan are trying to do, from the gutting of Dodd-Frank to passing an Obamacare replacement that hurts many Americans.

Now for a tune. The Beatles’ “Back in the USSR” was released in 1968. It was intended to be a parody of “Back in the USA” by the Beach Boys. The song shocked many at the time for its pro-Soviet message. Years later, Paul McCartney stated he knew very little about the Soviet Union when he wrote the song. Here is McCartney doing the song live in Moscow’s Red Square:

Note Putin vaguely rocking @ 0:14

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 21, 2017

On Friday night in Cologne Germany, Wrongo and Ms. Right had the chance to see a great young female duo who play classical music. Sophie Moser (violin) and Katja Huhn (piano) played selections for a mostly American audience. They perform under the name Duo Moser-Huhn. Here they are playing the Romanian Folk Dances by Bartok, composed in 1915. Sophie was a child prodigy, and plays an Amati violin built in 1743. They have few YouTube performances, so hopefully, you will enjoy this:

On to cartoons. Der Donald is on his first overseas tour as president. He is in Saudi as this is written, before his big speech on Islamic Terrorism. So you will already know just how well that was received by the 50 or so heads of state in the audience.

Trump prepares for landing:

Opinions on his Middle East visit vary:

John Fugelsang called Trump’s meeting with the Pope “His Holiness meets His Assholiness”:

Trump hints at having secret tapes of Comey:

Will Trump be dropped?

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Light Reading

The Daily Escape:

Amsterdam – photo by Wrongo

Quote: “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” – Winston Churchill

This quote somehow seems appropriate, after the “I’ve got a secret” game that the Orange Overlord just played with the Russians.

Anyway, here are a few links that you may have missed as the press ganged up on the Pantload:

Bees are still struggling to avoid colony collapse worldwide. US beekeepers can tolerate up to 15% losses of colonies over winter, but we lost 28.1% of colonies over the 2015-16 winter.

New data shows that golfers of all abilities think they hit the ball farther than they do. They also think their clubs are the best.

The US made a deal with ISIS fighters that they would let the fighters go if they would leave the Tabqah Dam untouched. ISIS kept its side of the deal, and didn’t blow up the dam. As soon as they departed, the US attacked them in open country. It is doubtful that ISIS will make that kind of deal again.

Congress is considering changing the National Flood Insurance Program, which has a $25 billion debt that its director says cannot be repaid. But, members of Congress disagree over how much homeowners should be forced to pay for flood insurance if the program is to become solvent.

Several big-name hedge funds trimmed their holdings in financial companies in the first quarter. Could they know something you don’t?

Bonus photo from Amsterdam:

The Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum – Photo by Wrongo

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 14, 2017

(Wrongo and Ms. Oh So Right are heading to Europe today. We will be gone for 10 days, so blogging may be sparse. Please keep America great while we are away.)

Happy Mother’s Day to all. A few more thoughts about BLOTUS (Big Liar of the US): Not only does he have the worst approval ratings of any president at this point in his term, but he’s also incapable of moving the needle of public opinion toward his positions. Ironically, for all of Trump’s sycophants’ talk that Trump’s words ARE his actions, his tweets and public pronouncements are making his positions more unpopular.

What matters most to Wrongo is his non-adherence to basic rules and norms, and here, there’s a lot to be concerned about. His fear of an investigation into possible Russian influence, and his refusal to release his tax returns probably mean he’s hiding something. Now we learn that Trump’s law firm, Morgan Lewis, which wrote a statement saying Trump’s tax returns showed no significant business ties to Russia, itself has extensive ties to Russia, and received a “Russia Law Firm of the Year” award in 2016. The swamp is reaching flood stage. On to cartoons.

Trump wanted a different dog:

Comey’s resume shows poor reviews by former employer:

McConnell plans to protect The Donald:

Trump thinks any negative story about him is made up:

Trump creates new versions of the truth faster than his team can spin them:

Trump hears from a guy inside the White House that he doesn’t know:

 

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Saturday Soother – May 13, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Bluebells, Brussels Belgium April 2017 photo by Francois Lenoir

In many ways, it is too easy to criticize Donald Trump. While we can have differing opinions on matters of policy, they only account for a few of the issues Wrongo has with Trump. Most are his unfathomable attempts to avoid telling the truth. Consider his interview with The Economist which posted the entire transcript on Thursday. Let’s focus on this excerpt:

The Economist: Another part of your overall plan, the tax reform plan. Is it OK if that tax plan increases the deficit? Ronald Reagan’s tax reform didn’t.
Trump: Well, it actually did. But, but it’s called priming the pump. You know, if you don’t do that, you’re never going to bring your taxes down.

[Snip]

Economist: But beyond that it’s OK if the tax plan increases the deficit?
Trump: It is OK, because it won’t increase it for long. You may have two years where you’ll…you understand the expression “prime the pump”?

Yes.
We have to prime the pump.

It’s very Keynesian.
We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. Have you heard that expression before, for this particular type of an event?

Priming the pump?
Yeah, have you heard it?

Yes.
Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just…I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.

Ok, so how did the guy from the Economist keep a straight face? The reporter is thinking John Maynard Keynes, the great British Economist, who came up with the idea of “priming the pump” in the 1930’s. By the way, Keynesian pump-priming is temporary government spending to boost temporarily weak demand. It is designed to boost growth, (and jobs) during a downturn, but we can’t assume that it will boost the economy’s growth rate.

Trump’s idea for pump-priming is more tax cuts. He’s following classic trickle-down economics, and claims that his tax cuts will boost investment, productivity growth, and labor supply, and thus raise the long-term growth rate of the economy. In this regard, Trump conflates Keynes, who’s been proven right, with Arthur Laffer, who wasn’t.

But, didn’t Trump graduate from Wharton with a business degree? Nobody gets out of Wharton without knowing that Keynes was the “pump primer”. And his saying that he coined the phrase ‘prime the pump’ a few days ago? Unfortunately, there are only two explanations: first, Trump is 70 years old and his cognitive skills are starting to desert him. Or second, he is a pathological liar.

Wrongo wants to go with #2.

He just wants to sell America something with his name stamped on it. But since America isn’t buying a hotel, he’s trying to sell Trumponomics, Trumpcare, etc. He does not really care about the details, he just wants to pass it, and to claim it is a success. That’s America’s tragedy.

So with Comeygate, Trumpcare and pump-priming, we all need to unplug and try, just try to relax on Saturday. We had a full moon and clear skies over the fields of Wrong on Thursday, so today we listen to “Claire du Lune” by Claude Debussy. It is the third movement of “Suite bergamasque”. Its name comes from Verlaine’s poem Clair de Lune, “moonlight” in French. Here it is played by Dame Moura Lympany, British pianist, who died in 2005:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Some Thoughts on L’affaire Comey

The Daily Escape:

Cathedral Cove, New Zealand – photo by Niels Holm

For the past few days, it has been “All Comey, all the time”, both in America and around the world.

You can count Wrongo as one of those who thinks that Comey made some huge mistakes trying to position himself after his take-down of Hillary Clinton, and her self-inflicted email disaster. You can also count Wrongo as thinking that Hillary’s loss was mostly her own fault. That means that you can also count Wrongo as agnostic regarding whether the Russians were behind the hack into the Democratic National Committee, or that their intervention was because they wanted to help Trump win the election.

Democrats argue that Trump and/or members of his administration are “soft on Russia”. Democrats have adopted a neo-con worldview that just a few years ago, they would have hated: That policies are either pro-America or pro-Russia. And, it’s in that pro-Russian box that Democrats are trying to stuff The Donald.

This makes Democrats blind to the possibility that people (even Trump!) could genuinely believe that it’s in America’s interest to be friendlier to Russia. That we could cooperate on certain issues without being agents of Putin. Perhaps you remember that Obama said just that in his first term.

So let’s turn to Comey’s firing. Thursday’s NYT had a complete listing of members of the House and Senate and their reaction(s) to the firing. And yes, if you went back a few years to Republican calls for special prosecutors to examine Democrats, the script was flipped, with most Dems then taking the position that Republicans are taking today.

It’s the kind of game that has become acceptable in today’s Washington swamp.

Wrongo isn’t happy with Comey’s performance as FBI director, but we now stand on the edge of a precipice without him. He ran into trouble because AG Loretta Lynch had to recuse herself during the Clinton email investigation. That led to his free-lancing, and his inexplicable testimony. Then AG Sessions had to recuse himself from any Russia-related investigation. And shortly thereafter, the tempo of the investigation changed, and Comey needed someone to approve additional resources for the Russia investigation. The WSJ reported:

Comey started receiving daily instead of weekly updates on the investigation, beginning at least three weeks ago…Comey was concerned by information showing possible evidence of collusion.

Now, the firing of Comey opens up the FBI and the DOJ, by custom and tradition an agency that is independent from politics, to outside political control, to a new director forcing a reduction in funding or other resources critical to the investigation.

Ostensibly, the issue isn’t the fact that Comey was fired. It’s about the timing. In turn, that is directly linked to the fact that the FBI is investigating Trump. Most think that the FBI Russia operation was breathing down the neck of the Trump campaign and their operatives. They think that the Comey firing is an effort to slow down, or wind down, the investigation prematurely.

The question is, will the new FBI director do either of those things? Wouldn’t the FBI agents involved in the investigation revolt/go public if a new director defunded the effort, and/or reduced the commitment to it? And the FBI is not running the investigation by itself. Their investigation is overseen by prosecutors. We heard this week that there is a grand jury. We hear that they’re issuing subpoenas. That’s not being done by the FBI. It’s being done by prosecutors in the DOJ.

And that’s where the ball sits. The American people have to rely on AG Jeff Sessions, who may be recused, but who guarantees that? Or it rests with Deputy AG Ron Rosenstein, who is in the job for a couple of weeks. Or it rests with a to-be-appointed FBI Director. Bloomberg is reporting that Trump is considering former Congressman and former FBI agent Mike Rogers, who is far too political, or former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who is all hat and no cattle.

There are hundreds of thousands of stories and millions of words being written about this. Trump shouldn’t expect this to go away.

In fact, he should publicly support getting to the bottom of it, rather than acting like Richard Nixon. That didn’t end well.

Some music: Here are the Waifs, an Australian blues/rock band formed in 1992, fronted by two sisters, doing “Crazy Train”. It’s the train America is on right now:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – March 5, 2017

Wrongo and family have moved temporarily to the Southern Mansion of Wrong for a few days to escape the New England winter. We rent the same oceanfront house each year. While it is low rent compared to Mar-a-Lago, here is the Sunday AM view:

Another great week for cartoons! Trump tweets that Obama bugged the phones at Trump Tower, but Obama denies it:

Two things are funny here: that Trump thinks the election process is “sacred”, after all that happened last November, and that he can’t spell “tap”.

GOP loved, loved Trump’s first address to the Congress:

Paul Ryan’s got a secret plan for health care:

 

Ryan’s plan will offer more choices to Americans. Our choices will be open casket, closed casket, and cremation. When Obama pushed the TPP, and Congress people could only see it in a secret room, the GOP howled. Apparently we the peasants should simply shut up, and eat our tiny bowls of gruel.

The Donald’s view of his defense budget in context:

Guns and tanks, tanks and guns, shoot ’em up, let’s have some fun

Jeff Sessions channels Bill Clinton:

How can a leader get away with saying nothing is his fault?

 

 

 

 

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Sean Spicer Searches Staff

The Daily Escape:

(Baby Baboon – Kenya)

Trump press secretary Sean Spicer is trying to catch the sources of White House leaks. (Link below sourced by the Wrongologist)

Spicer called his White House staff into his office last week to reiterate his frustration with the continuing leaks of WH information, sources with knowledge of the matter said. He informed them that the use of encrypted texting apps, like Signal and Confide, is a violation of the Federal Records Act.

NOW they care about the law? Using a Republican National Committee email server for official business is illegal, but that hasn’t stopped the White House from using it. Does Spicer have any concerns about the unsecured Android smartphone his boss tweets from every day? More:

Then, with White House counsel Don McGahn standing by, Spicer asked his staff to provide him with their cell phones so he could ensure they were not using those apps or corresponding privately with reporters.

Spicer then specifically asked his staff not to leak information about the meeting or his efforts to crack down on leaks to the media.

But someone in the room leaked all of it. They leaked that the leaky White House is trying to stop the leaks, (except for WikiLeaks) which, of course they love. Maybe someone should take a look at The Donald, who is currently taking a leak on the First Amendment.

Perhaps the gang who can’t shoot straight should have realized that people could delete incriminating information, or communicate with reporters in some way that might not be on their phones at all. Wrongo reveres the TV series “The Wire”. Apparently, Mr. Spicer has never watched it, and hasn’t heard of “burner” phones.

And it’s got to be difficult trying to maintain your loyalty to a team when the boss distrusts the team members. Unless there is a national security issue, there can’t be a reason to allow a government official to “inspect” your private mobile phone.

Many fun nicknames have been suggested for Sean Spicer (Cranky Spice, Whiny Spice). Wrongo’s current favorite is “Searchy Spice”, although his nickname in college was “Sean Sphincter” suggesting that he is in the right job: Hanging out with one of the world’s biggest assholes.

Thank you to the brave Americans inside the belly of the beast who put their country first. LEAK ON!

Next week in Spicer’s office: colonoscopies.

Here is a video about office investigations from the ever-popular TV series, “Office” (BBC version):

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

And enjoy (not) watching the Overlord’s address to the joint session of Congress tonight.

After all, you can read both fake news and alternative facts about it everywhere tomorrow.

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Monday Wake Up Call – February 27, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(A Great Grey Owl on the hunt – photo by Christina Anne m)

The last weekend in February is now in the rear view mirror. The shortest month seemed like an eternity to most of us. Even thinking about looking forward is madness, March Madness that is, a favorite time for Wrongo, one of the few times when watching televised sports dominates at the Mansion of Wrong.

Perhaps you have heard that Mr. Trump will not be attending the White House Correspondents Association annual dinner roast. Instead, maybe the press can get George W. Bush to show up, and search under the podium for a free press, like he did when pretending to look for WMD at the WHCA Dinner in 2004.

The Wrong family is off to Florida this week for the annual visit to his family. So columns may be like the Florida breezes, light and variable.

Remember Tuesday is Mardi Gras, which for some of you is your last guilt-free celebration until Easter. If you prefer less partying and more angst, by all means watch Donald Trump’s Tuesday address to a joint session of Congress.

Politico reports that House Democrats plan to troll Trump during the speech. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), is leading an effort to have his colleagues bring diverse guests to the speech on Tuesday. The effort is designed to focus on Trump’s immigration and refugee policies, perhaps stealing a bit of the spotlight from the president’s speech. Wrongo’s advice to Dems is to respect the office of the president. They can sit on their hands when Republicans applaud the Overlord, but they should avoid overt displays that make them look like loonies on the floor of the Congress. Wrongo’s further advice is not to attend this manufactured event. After all, there is no requirement in law or custom for it; it isn’t a “State of the Union” speech. And it’s the first time since Eisenhower that a president has given this type of out-of-sequence address.

So don’t expect that each time Trump tells a whopper, Dems will yell out “you lie!” despite the fact that since Republican Rep. Joe Wilson did it to Obama, it seems to be ok. And most likely if the Orange Overlord is speaking, this time, it will also be true.

So let’s wake up with a song about lyin’ politicians. Here is “Politician Lies by Steve M:

Sample Lyrics:

Politician lies
Hide what money buys.
They know right from wrong
Still they come on like King Kong
With a fat superpac
You can’t get them off your back.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 26, 2017

Five weeks into the Trump Ascendancy, and things look worse than ever. Wrongo has not had much time for the Trump/Russia conspiracy. If anything beyond the DNC hack surfaces, we can discuss the possibility of election interference. But as of now…unpersuaded. That is, until this coincidence occurred at CPAC:

From the Atlantic:

Jason Charter, 22, and Ryan Clayton, 36, passed out roughly 1,000 red, white, and blue flags, each bearing a gold-emblazoned “TRUMP” in the center, to an auditorium full of attendees waiting for President Trump to address the conference. Audience members waved the pennants—and took pictures with them—until CPAC staffers realized the trick: They were Russian flags.

The stunt made waves on social media, as journalists covering CPAC noticed the scramble to confiscate the flags. It was a gutsy and (mostly) harmless gag, unless you count the damage to Conservative egos. That the gag was carried out by two people who should fit the neo-con profile for Normal and Safe shows that the tribe cannot tell members from interlopers.

Trump’s team refused to let accredited journalists from certain news outlets attend Trump press secretary Sean Spicer’s “gaggle” on Friday. This is where American news is heading:

It is more important than ever to know who the real enemy is:

Kim Jong-Un channels the Donald, and there are surprising similarities:

Trump walks away from supporting LGBT rights:

GOP Congresscritters are terrorized about meeting their constituents:

 

 

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