Evening Open Thread


Zooey and Ric are watching the crows in the yard. They are fascinated by them, but frightened, as well they should be. Fortunately, they don’t have to deal directly with them.

I went to a reading of “Copenhagen” last night. It’s about a meeting between Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr in 1941. Heisenberg was Bohr’s student, but by then he was the head of the Nazi nuclear program. Denmark was occupied by the Nazis. Nobody knows what happened in that meeting, but there has been lively speculation. I’ll have more to say about that later.

I’ve got tabs up about Russia’s weakness, how spies turn people, and what might be discussed at a US – North Korean summit.

Also David Roberts on why the New York Times doesn’t hire real conservatives, and the 2002 NIE on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

I think I’ll kick back for the evening. You?



Breaking: Britain’s Information Officer Moves Against Cambridge Analytica

Here’s the Channel 4 expose of Cambridge Analytica:

Senior executives at Cambridge Analytica – the data company that credits itself with Donald Trump’s presidential victory – have been secretly filmed saying they could entrap politicians in compromising situations with bribes and Ukrainian sex workers.

In an undercover investigation by Channel 4 News, the company’s chief executive Alexander Nix said the British firm secretly campaigns in elections across the world. This includes operating through a web of shadowy front companies, or by using sub-contractors.

In one exchange, when asked about digging up material on political opponents, Mr Nix said they could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house”, adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”.

In another he said: “We’ll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land for instance, we’ll have the whole thing recorded, we’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the Internet.”

Offering bribes to public officials is an offence under both the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Cambridge Analytica operates in the UK and is registered in the United States.

The admissions were filmed at a series of meetings at London hotels over four months, between November 2017 and January 2018. An undercover reporter for Channel 4 News posed as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka.

Here’s the actual video:

What Nix and Turnbull are caught describing as their standard operating practice is separate from whatever program Christopher Wylie built for Cambridge Analytica. Rather, they’re describing a hybrid of privatized human intelligence and what are sometimes referred to as black psychological operations (black PSYOP), which is a misuse of the term. Initially black PSYOP was used as short hand for the highly compartmented covert form of PSYOP necessary to support special operations. This is not surprising as Cambridge Analytica is subsidiary business development unit of SCL Group, which claims to provide these services to the British Ministry of Defense and the US DOD. Several boutique companies were created to do this type of work in support of coalition operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and people eventually left these companies and started their own boutique shops. All they’re really doing is creating propaganda and then trying to insert it into the news and social media space without it seeming to come from non-natives.

I’ve had dealings with some of these folks and to be perfectly honest I find them to be largely full of crap about what they actually can and cannot do. Usually they have a very limited understanding of both socio-cultural considerations in general and the specific socio-cultural dynamics of the people they’re trying to influence in specific. One of the most obnoxious of them, another Brit, has only the bare minimum idea of what this work, especially the descriptive statistical analyses, actually entail. But he’s memorized a bunch of jargon, talks a good game, sounds posh, and gets contracts. He gets away with this because there are really no institutionalized quality assurance/quality control programs in place to ascertain if this stuff actually is helpful, let alone if it works, and whether it actually is useful to the uniformed and civilian personnel at the pointy end. And because there are too few folks like me who actually know better, so it is hard to preemptively block these folks before they make there clients dumber and put people’s lives at risk.

Updated at 5:10 PM EDT:

Updated at 5:22 PM EDT:

And this is a very good question:

Delete your Facebook page!

Don’t take any online surveys!

Stay frosty!

Open thread.


Russia Has An Election This Weekend: Last Man Standing Wins!

Or woman…

All of this is a facade intended to make it look like Russia has a functioning democratic system. Vladimir Putin will, of course, easily win another term essentially making him the Russian president for (the rest of his) life.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.

Russiagate Open Thread: Tonight’s Roundup

I for one will be interested in hearing what Cheryl or Adam have to say about these various stories, but here’s some quick hits to start the weekend:

Members of Congress are granted no special power to send criminal referrals to the Justice Department. Anyone can make one. But a referral by lawmakers would draw public notice and perhaps extra attention in Mueller’s office…

Committee Democrats have no specific timeline for issuing referrals, Schiff notes. Because Republicans did not force many witnesses to turn over banking, phone, and other records that might support or contradict their claims, he says, “we can’t tell who is telling the truth in many cases.”

But new reports that contradict the truthfulness of witnesses testimony could result in referrals down the road. “As additional things come to light, if there are reports of witnesses saying things that are inconsistent with what has been said to the committee, that list could grow,” Schiff says.

Democrats say they remain open to Republicans joining them in referrals to Mueller, though Republicans would likely oppose such efforts. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a senior committee member, dismissed Democrats’ potential efforts to refer witnesses for prosecution: “Those guys just keep trying.”


And further…

The muddled messaging was the subject of a closed-door meeting of committee Republicans on Wednesday. According to three sources briefed on the discussion, a frustrated Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) raised pointed concerns about why critiquing intelligence agencies was even mentioned at Monday’s rollout. The finding, after all, won’t be included in the committee’s official Russia report — it will be the subject of a second report issued later in the spring. But the decision to link it to the committee’s Russia findings scrambled the release.

Speaker Paul Ryan’s office also felt compelled to intervene as Republicans offered increasingly scattershot responses in interviews, with some more eager to criticize the agencies than others.

Ryan’s aides convened a meeting with members of the Intelligence Committee’s communications staff on Tuesday, according to two sources familiar with the gathering. The message: Make sure your bosses stick to facts about the intelligence agencies’ findings — and stay focused on the broader point that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and must be stopped from doing it again.

Ryan’s office declined to comment on the meeting…




And on the “Trump Family Crime Cartel” beat…

Finally, Eric Garland has an intriguing essay-in-short-bursts up on Twitter, but then Eric Garland is reputed to get ahead of his thesis sometimes, so I would definitely want a ruling from Adam or Cheryl or another expert on that one!

Repub Ratfvckery Open Thread: “This Is Why We Need Voter ID Laws!”

Next Saturday, March 24, hundreds of Texas Democratic Party activists will gather at the Austin Hyatt Regency to nominate candidates for political office in Travis County, a kick-off event leading up to the 2018 midterm elections.

But some people who tried to register will not be attending, among them Candida McGruder. Gustavo Chubb. Geraldo Tinsley. Vincent Amundson. Roxie Male.

That’s because these five individuals and 43 others who signed up to attend don’t appear to be Travis County residents, or Texans, or even Americans. They might not even be real people. They may be pranksters — or they may be Russian trolls, and their appearance in Texas could represent the first public example of foreign probing of the 2018 elections.

Five senior intelligence officers, two current and three former, say the case of the Texas 48 looks like Russian meddling. And they tell NBC News that despite the clumsiness of the failed registrations, the Texas case fits a pattern of Russian behavior seen in its covert operations…

Despite the ham-handedness that announces an obvious Russian origin, said Kanuck, who served as the first national intelligence officer for cyber issues at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from 2011 to 2016, the methods and even the in-your-face nature of the trolling fit the pattern of “a Russian strategic campaign to delegitimize the democratic electoral process.”

“I would speculate that Russia is testing the waters for possible interventions or disruptions in the future,” Kanuck said…

And sure enough, in just the top dozen replies to the original tweet…

Doesn’t matter, for Repub purposes, whether those commentors are co-conspirators or just misled bystanders — if it helps them divert the conversation from “who benefits from the actions of these Russian trolls?” to “AIEEE brown people voter fraud!”, it’s all to their advantage.

Breaking: Special Counsel Mueller Has Subpoenaed The Trump Organization For Documents Related To Russia

From The New York Times reporting:

WASHINGTON — The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, according to two people briefed on the matter. The order is the first known time that the special counsel demanded documents directly related to President Trump’s businesses, bringing the investigation closer to the president.

The breadth of the subpoena was not clear, nor was it clear why Mr. Mueller issued it instead of simply asking for the documents from the company, an umbrella organization that oversees Mr. Trump’s business ventures. In the subpoena, delivered in recent weeks, Mr. Mueller ordered the Trump Organization to hand over all documents related to Russia and other topics he is investigating, the people said.

The subpoena is the latest indication that the investigation, which Mr. Trump’s lawyers once regularly assured him would be completed by now, will drag on for at least several more months. Word of the subpoena comes as Mr. Mueller appears to be broadening his investigation to examine the role foreign money may have played in funding Mr. Trump’s political activities. In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s investigators have questioned witnesses, including an adviser to the United Arab Emirates, about the flow of Emirati money into the United States.

Neither White House officials nor Alan S. Futerfas, a lawyer representing the Trump Organization, immediately responded to requests for comment. The Trump Organization has typically complied with requests from congressional investigators for documents for their own inquiries into Russian election interference, and there was no indication the company planned to fight Mr. Mueller about it.

Much more at the link, but the real outstanding question is why use the subpoena rather than the normal investigator to corporate legal counsel request letter or letters. The reason for the Special Counsel’s decision to go this route is unclear and/or unknown at this time.

Stay frosty!

Open thread!

Russiagate Open Thread: Will Assange Take Down Roger Stone?

I doubt I’ve been a good enough person for the Universe to reward me with video of Roger Ratfvcking Stone being dragged off in handcuffs, but then, I’m not the only person praying for his downfall, either…

In the spring of 2016, longtime political operative Roger Stone had a phone conversation that would later seem prophetic, according to the person on the other end of the line.

Stone, an informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, said he had learned from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that his organization had obtained emails that would torment senior Democrats such as John Podesta, then campaign chairman for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The conversation occurred before it was publicly known that hackers had obtained the emails of Podesta and of the Democratic National Committee, documents that WikiLeaks released in late July and October. The U.S. intelligence community later concluded that the hackers were working for Russia…

Stone’s possible connection to Assange has been under scrutiny since the 2016 campaign, when he made public claims that he was in contact with the London-based WikiLeaks founder. Since then, Stone has emphatically denied any communication with Assange or advance knowledge of the document dumps by WikiLeaks, which embarrassed Clinton allies and disrupted the 2016 campaign. WikiLeaks and Assange have also said they never communicated with Stone.

Potential contacts with WikiLeaks have been probed by federal investigators examining whether allies of President Trump coordinated with Russians seeking to tilt the 2016 race. The president has repeatedly denied any collusion with Russia.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, declined to comment…

Nunberg told The Post that the questions he was asked by Mueller’s investigators indicated to him that the special counsel is examining statements Stone has made publicly about WikiLeaks.

“Of course they have to investigate this,” he said. “Roger made statements that could be problematic.”…

A very chastened Nunberg seems to have accepted that Mr. Mueller will not be dismissed by threats or bluster. And he may even have realized that his “mentor” never actually respected him…