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Open Thread: President Obama Orders A “Full Review” of Russian Election Hacking

In a move essential to guarantee confidence in our electoral process, and also the proud political tradition of “Make ‘Em Deny It”, per CNN:

President Barack Obama has ordered a full review into hacking by the Russians aimed at influencing US elections going back to 2008, the White House said Friday.

“The President has directed the Intelligence Community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process. It is to capture lessons learned from that and to report to a range of stakeholders,” White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Lisa Monaco said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters Friday. “This is consistent with the work that we did over the summer to engage Congress on the threats that we were seeing.”

White House spokesman Eric Schultz added later that the review would encompass malicious cyber activity related to US elections going back to 2008…

Democrats were quick to praise Obama on Friday and pressured Trump to change his tune.
“Defending our elections from foreign meddling is more important than any political party’s advantage or disadvantage,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “Any Administration should be deeply troubled by Russia’s attempt to tamper with our elections.”

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, California Rep. Adam Schiff, praised the administration for its move and called on the White House to declassify as much as it could.

“Given President-elect Trump’s disturbing refusal to listen to our intelligence community and accept that the hacking was orchestrated by the Kremlin, there is an added urgency to the need for a thorough review before President Obama leaves office next month,” Schiff said in a statement. “More than that, the administration must begin to take steps to respond forcefully to this blatant cyber meddling, and work with our allies in Europe who have been targets of similar attacks to impose costs on the Kremlin; if we do not, we can expect to see a lot more of this in the near future.”

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the President’s move “constructive” and said he has no doubt about the Moscow’s role…

More detail, and video, at the link.

From that Newsweek link in the top tweet:

Asked if Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team was not concerned enough about Russia’s influence on the election or about other threats to the United States such as infectious disease outbreaks, Monaco said it was too soon to say. As a presidential candidate, Trump praised Putin and called on Russia to dig up missing emails from his opponent, Hillary Clinton, from her time as secretary of state under fellow Democrat Obama.



Cynicism confirmed

Balloon Juice in August:

Aetna was profitable in 2015 in the individual market in Pennsylvania. It is projecting to be profitable in 2017. The filing memo was drafted in late May and submitted to the Pennsylvania regulators in early June. Conditions have not changed enough to make Pennsylvania a money loser in under two months.

My wee bit of cynicism bears fruit. Aetna is trying to logroll an anti-competetive merger with on-Exchange political consequences. If it works for Aetna/Humana it burns a bridge to get the merger, and if it fails, it puts Aetna on the shitlist of any Democratic administration. That is a very interesting strategy when it is highly likely that there will be another Democratic administration…

So in all years Aetna’s individual market operations in Pennsylvania were either profitable or projected to be profitable. Something stinks worse than a wrestling team’s locker room after two-a-days.

USA Today on Sunday afternoon:

When Aetna announced in August that it was leaving the exchanges in 11 of the 15 states it sells in for 2017, it said it had a pretax loss of $200 million on its individual insurance plans in the second quarter of this year and total pretax losses of more than $430 million since January 2014 on its individual insurance plans. Nearly all of these policies are sold on the ACA exchanges. At the time, CEO Mark Bertolini said the move would “limit our financial exposure moving forward.”

But Aetna made nearly $12 million on individual ACA plans in Texas and more than $8 million in Pennsylvania, according to financial filings with state regulators, and is exiting the Healthcare.gov exchange in both states anyway. Asked to comment on decisions to leave states where it was making money, Aetna spokesman T.J. Crawford said, “We don’t discuss performance at the state level.”

Nice to know that I am occasionally cynical enough.



Thursday Morning Open Thread: PEOTUS Trump, Fraud-in-Chief

Looks like the Washington Post may have decided the nation needs a Paper of Opposition, since the NYTimes is determined to control the Kneepads Brigade. Phillip Bump, “Trump will be the first modern president to get less than half of the vote in both the primary and general”:

Trump always likes to say that he received more votes than any previous Republican nominee, which is accurate, but it’s also accurate that a record was set for most votes cast for candidates other than the eventual nominee.

Using data from U.S. Election Atlas and the Congressional Quarterly Guide to Elections, we can plot contests since 1972 (after the reforms that followed the 1968 process) and demonstrate that only five times have major-party nominees earned less than 50 percent of the vote in both the primary and the general — and only once, this year, has that person ended up winning the presidency…

Update: Since someone on Twitter asked, the other four people to get under 50 percent in each contest were John McCain (2008), Michael Dukakis (1988), Walter Mondale (1984) and George McGovern (1972).

Interestingly, both of the last two losing candidates got more of the vote in the general election than did Trump. Trump earned about 46.3 percent of the vote (though ballots are still being counted) to Mitt Romney’s 47.2. (Romney also did better than Trump in nearly half the states.) Hillary Clinton, of course, beat Trump in the popular vote this year, which is where this whole thing started…

More Republicans voted for someone besides Trump than voted for him in the primary, but he won. More Americans voted for Trump’s opponent in the general, but he won.

Had we been saying this about Clinton, I think it’s safe to guess the word Trump would have used to describe her victory: Rigged.

Trump, as is his wont, found the right loopholes to stake his claim to a chunk of an aging, damaged institution (the GOP, in this case) — which he will now, predictably, loot and discard.

But let’s keep reminding him that his “landslide” is really just a Mondale/McGovern/Dukakis/McCain – level #FAIL, artificially inflated into the semblance of a victory by years of Republican vote-suppression, gerrymandering, foreign interference, and warring factions within the national security state. He has no mandate, and neither do the professional GOP asset-strippers like Paul Ryan, who are planning to use Trump as their catspaw.

***********
Apart from congratulating the pollsters for their accuracy (FWIW), what’s on the agenda for the day?



Putin’s Puppet and NFLG Harry Reid

Senator Harry Reid has just released a letter to FBI Director Comey that is utterly (and IMHO appropriately) brutal.

It contains two key elements.  The first is a direct assertion that Comey has engaged in partisan political action, and may (by implication, has) broken the law by violating the Hatch Act.

The second is this:

In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interests from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.

neuville_alphonse_de_-_the_spy_-_1880

Hillary Clinton’s aide’s husband sent dick picks from a computer that may or may not contain emails that may or may not add to our nation’s stock of risotto recipes.

Donald Trump, apparantly, has consequential entanglement with the former KGB thug-led Russian government and its klepto-thug circle of supporters.

We know hair-raising innuendo about the former.

About the latter, from the same institution?  Crickets.

Sauce for the goose damn well ought to be sauce for the gander.  And Comey’s a hack who needs to go at the earliest politick opportunity. (And yeah, that’s not a typo.  I like that old spelling.)

No BS here: if the FBI has pertinent information on Trump’s potential for conflict of interest due to his Russian encounters, we need to know this now.

Here is Reid’s letter in full:

Dear Director Comey:

Your actions in recent months have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another. I am writing to inform you that my office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act, which bars FBI officials from using their official authority to influence an election. Through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law.

The double standard established by your actions is clear.

In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interests from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.

By contrast, as soon as you came into possession of the slightest innuendo related to Secretary Clinton, you rushed to publicize it in the most negative light possible.

Moreover, in tarring Secretary Clinton with thin innuendo, you overruled longstanding tradition and the explicit guidance of your own Department. You rushed to take this step eleven days before a presidential election, despite the fact that for all you know, the information you possess could be entirely duplicative of the information you already examined which exonerated Secretary Clinton.

As you know, a memo authored by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates on March 10, 2016, makes clear that all Justice Department employees, including you, are subject to the Hatch Act. The memo defines the political activity prohibited under the Hatch Act as “activity directed towards the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group.”

The clear double-standard established by your actions strongly suggests that your highly selective approach to publicizing information, along with your timing, was intended for the success or failure of a partisan candidate or political group.

Please keep in mind that I have been a supporter of yours in the past. When Republicans filibustered your nomination and delayed your confirmation longer than any previous nominee to your position, I led the fight to get you confirmed because I believed you to be a principled public servant.

With the deepest regret, I now see that I was wrong.

Sincerely,

Senator Harry Reid

Image: Alphonse de Neuville, The Spy1880.



The Maskirovka Slips

intel-cognitive-maskirovka-doctrine

(Maskirovka Principles)

Newsweek‘s Kurt Eichenwald has just broken a story pertaining to Russian Intelligence’s hacking, forging, and/or altering documents to influence the US election in collusion with Wikileaks.

Of course, this might be seen as just an opportunity to laugh at the incompetence of the Russian hackers and government press—once they realized their error, Sputniktook the article down. But this is not funny at all. The Russians have been obtaining American emails and now are presenting complete misrepresentations of them—falsifying them—in hopes of setting off a cascade of events that might change the outcome of the presidential election. The big question, of course, is why are the Russians working so hard to damage Clinton and, in the process, aid Donald Trump. That is a topic for another time.

For now, though, Americans should be outraged. This totalitarian regime, engaged in what are arguably war crimes in Syria to protect their government puppet, is working to upend a democracy to the benefit of an American candidate who uttered positive comments just Sunday about the Kremlin’s campaign on behalf of Bashar al-Assad. Trump’s arguments were an incomprehensible explication of the complex Syrian situation, which put him right on the side of the Iranians and Syrians who are fighting to preserve the government that is the primary conduit of weapons used against Israel.

So no, Mr. Putin, I’m not Sidney Blumenthal. And now that you have been exposed once again, get the hell out of our election.

As I wrote back in July, we are in a cyber war, which is part of the new cold war that we find ourselves in.

I’ll have more on some of the current US-Russia impasse (hopefully) in regard to Aleppo tomorrow.


The Trials of Snack Team 6: The Embezzling!

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While the Prosecution has rested in the Trial of Snack Team 6 and the Defense has begun to present their case, including calling Franklin Graham to the stand, we have news relating our intrepid heroes that originated outside the courtroom. The Idaho Statesmen is reporting that Brandon Curtiss, the leader of the Idaho III% Militia, took $2,901 of donations meant to assist four Idaho III% members who have been charged in the 2014 Bundy family led Bunkerville standoff (h/t: TPM). As a result 36 members of the Idaho III% Militia have resigned because Curtiss has allegedly taken this money and spent it on a variety of items that have absolutely nothing to do with funds to assist the four of his members and their families as they wait for their upcoming days in Federal Court.

The group’s PayPal account was in Curtiss’ name. PayPal records show Curtiss paid $295 on Aug. 7 to Rollin Smoke Diesel, an Indiana company that supplies aftermarket parts that allow pickups with diesel engines to produce thick clouds of black smoke in what has become a fad in some areas. The next day, the company credited $13 back to the account.

On Aug. 8, the account was billed $30 from Mister Car Wash in Nampa. Other payments that month for which the business purpose wasn’t clear include $37.50 to Adele’s Storage in Clarkston, Wash.; $30 to Spyfly.com, an online company that provides criminal records, personal financial information and contact information for people; $18.55 to a Taco Bell in Ontario, Ore.; and $71.59 to a Maverik store in Fruitland, where Curtiss resides.

That same month, the Mountain West Bank statement shows a $98.44 charge for an Idaho Parks and Recreation camping reservation and a $5 iTunes music download. There were also $292 in gasoline and food charges in Winnemucca, Nev., and Roseville and Sacramento, Calif., on Aug. 3 and 4, along with an Aug. 3 Walmart purchase in Sacramento.

By Sept. 13, the bank account showed a balance of $12.58. Six days later, the account was closed. It’s unclear whether 3% of Idaho has another existing bank account or what financial resources it still has.

Also, Curtiss appears to be a general, all around deadbeat. He was fined for not paying the Workman’s Comp premiums earlier this year for his Bail Recovery Agency, the Sons of Liberty Fugitive Recovery Service.

Tune in tomorrow for more updates. Same Bundy time, same Bundy station.

(I am not sure if it is kosher to mix Roman numerals with a % sign. But that’s how these guys do their name/symbol. I apologize if this is shaatnez.)



A President Trump’s Foreign Policy Preview: For Sale, To the Highest Bidder

This is just a quick pointer to the essential read of the day.  If Kurt Eichenwald’s brutal, beautiful story on the Trump Organization’s seemingly limitless overseas conflicts of interest with US policy doesn’t become the dominant campaign story for the day and much longer, then, again, we’ll know who and what our media are.

One of the best minor pleasures of this deeply important piece is the way Eichenwald brutally dismisses the false equivalence crap that so many in the press promise us doesn’t exist.  A sample:

The Trump Organization is not like the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the charitable enterprise that has been the subject of intense scrutiny about possible conflicts for the Democratic presidential nominee. There are allegations that Hillary Clinton bestowed benefits on contributors to the foundation in some sort of “pay to play” scandal when she was secretary of state, but that makes no sense because there was no “pay.” Money contributed to the foundation was publicly disclosed and went to charitable efforts, such as fighting neglected tropical diseases that infect as many as a billion people. The financials audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the global independent accounting company, and the foundation’s tax filings show that about 90 percent of the money it raised went to its charitable programs. (Trump surrogates have falsely claimed that it was only 10 percent and that the rest was used as a Clinton “slush fund.”) No member of the Clinton family received any cash from the foundation, nor did it finance any political campaigns. In fact, like the Clintons, almost the entire board of directors works for free.

On the other hand, the Trump family rakes in untold millions of dollars from the Trump Organization every year.

A_Peasant_Girl_buying_an_Indulgence

Much of that comes from deals with international financiers and developers, many of whom have been tied to controversial and even illegal activities. None of Trump’s overseas contractual business relationships examined by Newsweek were revealed in his campaign’s financial filings with the Federal Election Commission, nor was the amount paid to him by his foreign partners.

That should (but probably won’t) leave a mark in a certain building on 8th Ave between 40th and 41st st.

One more sample, just to get a sense of how utterly at odds with US national interest a Trump presidency would be:

With Middle Eastern business partners and American allies turning on him, Trump lashed out. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal—the billionaire who aided Trump during his corporate bankruptcies in the 1990s by purchasing his yacht, which provided him with desperately needed cash—sent out a tweet amid the outcry in Dubai, calling the Republican candidate a “disgrace.” (Alwaleed is a prodigious tweeter and Twitter’s second largest shareholder.) Trump responded with an attack on the prince—a member of the ruling Saudi royal family—with a childish tweet, saying, “Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected. #Trump2016.”

Once again, Trump’s personal and financial interests are in conflict with critical national security issues for the United States. During the Bush administration, Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital, and Washington reached a bilateral agreement to improve international standards for nuclear nonproliferation. Cooperation is particularly important for the United States because Iran—whose potential development of nuclear weapons has been a significant security issue, leading to an international agreement designed to place controls on its nuclear energy efforts—is one of the UAE’s largest trading partners, and Dubai has been a transit point for sensitive technology bound for Iran.

Given Trump’s name-calling when faced with a critical tweet from a member of the royal family in Saudi Arabia, an important ally, how would he react as president if his company’s business in the UAE collapsed? Would his decisions in the White House be based on what is best for America or on what would keep the cash from Dubai flowing to him and his family?

There’s tons more at the link — and yet Eichenwald says, correctly, that this article only scratches the surface. This is (truly) disqualifying stuff, folks. That it almost surely won’t drive Trump from the race is an indictment of him, his party, and a political process, shaped in part by a flawed media culture.  That just leaves us as a last line of defense.

You know, voters.

The common clay…

[Had to leave that hanging curve out for the Balloon Juice Jackals, right?]

Seriously. Eichenwald has done really important work here.  Go read what he’s found, then get it out to everyone you can.

Image: Marius Granet, A Peasant Girl Buying an Indulgence 1825