Stormy Weather (Open Thread)

Here’s some hurricane trivia you probably don’t know if you’ve never lived in Florida or happened to be visiting when a hurricane is near: The weather is relatively pleasant for people lucky enough to dodge the bullet. Since the storms occur in the hot and steamy months, a cloudy, breezy day outside the path is a welcome relief, tempered by survivors’ guilt.

Shifting to a different kind of hullabaloo, it looks like Stormy Daniels may visit Capitol Hill this fall. From TPM:

House Dems Will Shift Focus To Trump’s Alleged Role In Hush Money Scheme

House Democrats plan to shift their focus this fall to President Trump’s alleged role in the hush money scheme that led to the imprisonment of his former lawyer, the Washington Post reported.

As early as October, the House Judiciary Committee intends to hold hearings and call in witnesses involved in the scheme to keep both porn actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal quiet about alleged affairs with Trump ahead of the 2016 election. According to people familiar with the plans who spoke to the Post, Democrats on the panel believe there is enough proof from special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings to name Trump as co-conspirator in the case that put Michael Cohen in prison for campaign finance violations. He’s currently serving a three-year sentence for the hush payment ordeal, as well as for other financial wrongdoing and lying to Congress.

Democrats will reportedly point their laser focus on Trump’s involvement in the whole ordeal and they plan to dig into whether they can charge Trump if it weren’t for the Justice Department’s rule that prevents the indictment of a sitting president.

Trump’s “National Enquirer” pal, the aptly named David Pecker, may also be called to testify, according to the TPM report.

Is it a good idea to air this load of sordid laundry or nah? I’m not sure how it will play politically, but it’s about damned time, IMO. I’m old enough to remember when a candidate paying off women with whom he’d had an “affair” to keep quiet in the run-up to a presidential election would have been big news.

Maybe it’s old-fashioned, but I’m down with Making Blatant Campaign Finance Violations Scandalous Again. The real issue here is the corruption, and if the “corruption” entree needs “tawdry” as a piquant condiment to make it palatable to a public benumbed by routine corruption, so be it.

Open thread.

Just a Quick Note On the Patrick Byrne Stuff

Late last night/early this morning, Ann Laurie briefly referenced former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne’s bizarre appearances on cable news last night. Here’s the two clips from his Fox News appearance:

And here’s his appearance on CNN. Chris Cuomo does about 2 and 1/2 minutes of set up, then does an interview with Anthony Scaramucci, and then interviews Byrne beginning at the 10:28 second mark of the video – this way you can skip the Mooch.

I’ve watched the clips of the appearances, I’ve read the write ups on various outlets and seen the Twitter reactions. My professional opinion is that there is no way, shape, and/or form that Byrne was being used in any formal manner in a counterintelligence investigation. His long history of conspiracism, bizarre pronouncements, and erratic behavior make him completely unsuitable because he’s completely unpredictable. To be perfectly honest, unless he can actually produce evidence he had an affair, whether one night stand or longer duration, with Maria Butina, I’m not really sure we should accept his stating he had an affair with Maria Butina as a factual truth claim. A number of people who have made names for themselves on social media or other platforms trying to explain the Mueller investigation and the connections between the Russians and the 2016 elections, the President’s campaign, his businesses, those in his orbit, etc immediately went into overdrive because of the statements Byrne made on Fox and CNN last night. By this morning, there were assertions of major breaking developments pertaining to what the President did, what Don Jr. did, what the NRA did, what Butina and Torshin did, what the NRA did, and what others did in 2016 that are all going to radically change both our understanding of what happened in 2016 and what is going to be done to hold people to account.

I think all of those assertions, as well as Byrne’s own statements last night, need to be taken with an Adam sized grain of salt. I don’t work for or with the FBI or the DOJ, though I did provide some support to the DOJ officer assigned to US European Command back in 2014 on an Interagency project we were both involved in. I have worked with Army counterintelligence professionals over the years, it was largely in regard to conducting network analysis in order to disaggregate targets for kinetic action from people, groups, and organization we wanted to engage with non-kinetically (basically we wanted to meet with them, talk with them, see if we could work with them rather than capture or kill them). And I’ve taught how to do network analysis to uniformed personnel, civilians, and contractors for both lethal and non-lethal operations. But these collaborations weren’t to map, assess, analyze, and understand the intelligence organizations and operations of other nation-states, which is the real focus of counterintelligence work. Rather it was to assist with work done by uniformed counterintelligence professionals assigned to apply their expertise to the groups we were dealing with in Iraq, Afghanistan, and similar places. That said, I am not a counterintelligence officerNor do I claim to be one. But I do have some insight into what they do and I find it very, very, very hard to believe that Byrne was being used in any official capacity. I think it is likely he contacted someone at the FBI or DOJ. Being a CEO of a major company would make it easy for him to get to supervisory special agents in charge or even senior leadership, but I think it is more than likely that he was used, at best, as an informal dangle (bait). He told them contact had been made and asked what to do and they replied with something along the lines of “keep doing what you’re doing, and let us know if anything changes”. Until some actual supporting, confirmable evidence of Byrne’s claims are made, his statements have to be viewed very skeptically. His affect and behavior on both Fox and CNN last night were even more manic and unhinged than when a clearly emotional distressed and possibly intoxicated Sam Nunberg appeared on both Ari Melber’s MSNBC and Erin Burnett’s CNN shows, where Maya Wylie patiently and empathetically tried to calm him down and convince him not to do anything stupid and Erin Burnett asked if he was drunk. Based on what I saw last night and read about today, the only thing I know of for sure is that Patrick Byrne is in dire need of professional help.

For those interested in a nice primer on counterintelligence, I highly recommend John Ehrman’s “Towards a Theory of CI” in Studies in Intelligence Studies, which those friendly folks at the CIA have posted in their online library. They’re so user friendly and customer oriented at Langley!

Open thread!


The President Has Thoughts! They’re Not Coherent Thoughts, They’re anti-Semitic Thoughts, But They’re Thoughts

Oy vey!

I realize that when the President and his surrogates are called out to explain or respond to this, the answer will be that he’s just retweeting something complimentary that Wayne Allen Root said and/or wrote about him. And that it is part of him counter-punching and punching back at those, especially the Jewish Americans, pushing back against his statements yesterday about loyalty and disloyalty. But the level of sycophancy in Root’s comments about the President and delusion in the President’s repackaging those comments and blasting them out to the world are just astounding.

Here’s some quick background on Root, who is a conspiracist.

Also, on a semi-related matter, if you’re wondering why the President cancelled his Denmark trip, methinks this might have had something to do with it.

Open thread!


Open Thread: Time Travel As Cultural Barometer

Leon Trotsky once wrote, “Art, it is said, is not a mirror, but a hammer: it does not reflect, it shapes.” I suspect that this phenomenon is more intense in works of speculative fiction* than, say, spy thrillers. These stories are well-positioned to plumb and amplify the pressing issues and paranoias of their times; more to the point, they often offer high-concept utopian solutions, be they progressive or reactionary.

So I was amused to see the Guardian ask: Why are there so many new books about time-travelling lesbians?

In 2016, I sat down with my co-author Max Gladstone to write our novel This Is How You Lose the Time War, which follows two time-travelling female spies as they fall in love. That same year was also when I first heard people speaking earnestly and frequently about feeling as if they were in the wrong timeline, as the Brexit referendum results rolled in and Donald Trump was elected US president.

[…] But our novel is just one of several recent stories of queer women time-travelling. There is Kate Heartfield’s Nebula-nominated novella Alice Payne Arrives and its sequel Alice Payne Rides, which see two 18th-century women – lovers – become embroiled in a war. There are also Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade, Kate Mascarenhas’s The Psychology of Time Travel, Kelly Robson’s Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach and Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline.

[…] I wrote to each of these authors in anticipation of this piece and it turns out we were all drafting our books in 2016.

The article is a quick and a good read. I haven’t picked up This Is How You Lose the Time War yet, but it’s near the top of my list. I did read two books last year that featured time-traveling lesbians, though, just chewing through a random pile of space opera.

This article reminded me of a fun piece on Doctor Who**, which found that the Doctor was significantly more likely to overthrow the government during the Thatcher era. Read more

We’ll get to “votes were changed” eventually…

Remember how the reporting on Russian intel’s attempt at US vote-diddling began? On Twitter, Soonergrunt sums it up:

First it was “they never got into any states”
Then it was “they got in but couldn’t access voter info”
Then it was “they saw voter info but couldn’t do anything.”
Now it’s “they could but didn’t do anything”
Next it’s…

“They could but didn’t” is where we are now, according to reporting from The Times on a Senate Intelligence Committee report released yesterday:

While details of many of the hackings directed by Russian intelligence, particularly in Illinois and Arizona, are well known, the committee’s report describes a Russian intelligence effort more far-reaching than the federal government has previously acknowledged. It concluded that while there is no evidence that any votes were changed in actual voting machines, “Russian cyberactors were in a position to delete or change voter data” in the Illinois voter database. The committee found no evidence that they did so. While the report is not directly critical of either American intelligence agencies or the states, it described what amounted to a cascading intelligence failure, in which the scope of the Russian effort was underestimated, warnings to the states were too muted, and state officials either underreacted or, in some cases, resisted federal efforts to offer help.

The next shoe will drop. Eventually.