Russiagate Open Thread: Meanwhile, What News of the Prince of Amway?

Erik Prince, brother of Betsy deVos, founder of Blackwater (now Academi), testified before the US House of Representatives Select Committe on Intelligence on November 30th. A 105-page transcript of his testimony has been released, and is providing much fodder for specialists…

Also…


Read more



Entertaining Russiagate Read: “The Recruitables”

If you have to tell people you’re ‘very intelligent’, you’ve already proved you aren’t. Alex Finley explains to Politico “Why Trump’s Team Was Easy Prey for Putin”:

By now, it should be clear to anyone following the news that Russian intelligence made a formidable effort to approach the Trump campaign and assess the potential to manipulate its members. As a former officer of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, I can tell you that Russian security services would have been derelict not to evaluate the possibility of turning someone close to Trump. While the question of collusion remains open, it’s beyond dispute that Russia tried to get people around the president to cooperate. The June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower is indication enough, but other encounters bolster the argument.

How do you get someone to do something they should not do?

Generally, an intelligence officer looks for a person’s vulnerabilities and explores ways to exploit them. It usually comes down to four things, which—in true government style—the CIA has encompassed in an acronym, MICE: Money, Ideology, Coercion, Ego. Want to get someone to betray his country? Figure out which of these four motivators drives the person and exploit the hell out of it…

From an intelligence point of view, the people surrounding Trump, and Trump himself, make easy targets for recruitment. This is not to say these people have definitely been recruited by Russian intelligence—and they’ve all denied it repeatedly—but you can be sure that Russia’s intelligence services took these factors into consideration when they approached the campaign…

Paul Manafort: Money
Anyone who has lobbied on behalf of leaders ranging from Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko to the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos to Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang likely has no set ideology or moral compass and is motivated primarily by making money. People like this make very good targets. There is no emotion involved. Getting the person to do something is a fairly straightforward transaction…

Donald Trump Jr.: Money, Ego
Junior is a lot like dad in his need to feel important. He was certainly a target because he manages access to his father, and his arrogance makes him easy to read…

Donald Trump: Ego
Ego is clearly the best way to get Trump to do anything. The Saudis certainly understood this, feting him with gold and orbs and displaying his enormous portrait on the side of a hotel, right next to the king’s portrait…

Trump’s ego wanted to win and, he figured, everyone else wanted him to win, too. He was under the impression that everyone loved him and appreciated his greatness. Of course everyone wanted to help him win. If he accepted help from Russia, it’s possible he didn’t realize there was anything wrong with doing so. Why wouldn’t they help him win, he might have thought, and why shouldn’t he accept that help? For an experienced chekist like Putin, manipulating his ego is almost too easy…



Late Night Open Thread: NRA Fairy Tales of Dark Monsters

Trump’s unearned “success” has made the NRA’s plumpest pigeons complacent. SAD!



Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: You Can Count on the CIA

… to behave just as it’s always behaved. Tea Party alumni and Saudi Arabian monarchy fan Mike Pompeo showed up at the neoconservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies to thrill the #NeverIran activists with his display of America’s Big Stick(tm). But first, he needed to back up his current master’s Big Lie…

His comment suggested — falsely — that a report released by U.S. intelligence agencies in January had ruled out any impact that could be attributed to a covert Russian interference campaign that involved leaks of tens of thousands of stolen emails, the flooding of social media sites with false claims and the purchase of ads on Facebook.

A report compiled by the CIA and other agencies described that Russian operation as unprecedented in its scale and concluded that Moscow’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process and help elect Donald Trump.

But the report reached no conclusions about whether that interference had altered the outcome — an issue that U.S. intelligence officials made clear was considered beyond the scope of their inquiry…

Former U.S. intelligence officials voiced concern over Pompeo’s statement.

“This is another example of Pompeo politicizing intelligence,” a former senior U.S. intelligence official said. Pompeo “is the most political CIA director since Bill Casey” during the Reagan administration, the former official said. “This significantly undermines the intelligence community’s credibility.”…

Pompeo also threatened “leakers”:

… Pompeo also criticized former U.S. intelligence officials for their television appearances, implying that they violated their oaths and potentially contributed to the leaks of sensitive information.

“There are an awful lot of former CIA talking heads on TV,” Pompeo said, adding that their obligation to remain quiet about their work “far extends beyond the day you turn in your badge.”

His comment seemed to be aimed mainly at former senior intelligence officials in the Obama administration, including James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, who said in a recent interview that Russia’s interference had “cast doubt” on Trump’s win.

“Our intelligence community assessment did, I think, serve to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory,” Clapper said in an interview on CNN last month. He added that he worried Trump’s perceived focus on the issue “transcends, unfortunately, the real concern here, which is Russian interference in our political process.”…

Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Martin Heinrich (N.M.), both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, rebuked Pompeo for his Russia comments. Wyden said in a posting on Twitter that Pompeo’s views on Moscow had “shifted with those of the president.”
Read more



It’s All Fun & Games, Until Somebody Loses Their Kid

It’s sad (no lie!) that the New England Cosplay Association had to cancel a long-scheduled public gathering because some nitwit college kid got a permit to let Nazi wannabes swarm Boston Common. But this is serious:

Y’know, I’d have trouble picking Insane Clown Posse songs out of a general metal sound-off, but if the Very Serious Pundits could get past their bourgeois prejudices, the classic Juggalo is exactly the type of disadvantaged, Appalachian-heritage ‘Working Class White’ that they slobber over so endlessly. And it would probably cause at least one cardiac incident if this were pointed out to a roomful of Media Village Idiots…



Long Read: “How Being Wrongly Pegged as the Dallas Cop Sniper Changed Mark Hughes’ Life Forever”

Dan Solomon, at Fusion:

Mark Hughes has a sense of humor about what happened to him last summer. On July 7, 2016, Hughes was wrongly identified by Dallas Police and news organizations around the world as a suspect in that day’s sniper attack at a Black Lives Matter march in the city, and when I meet him in the office of the tax prep company he owns in nearby Arlington, Hughes asks me with a straight face: “Are you familiar with the July 7th event?” Then, pointing to his desk neighbor: “You know, he was the one who was actually doing the shooting.”

It’s hard to imagine how Hughes would have survived the past year without cracking a few jokes. Almost everything about his life has been affected by the day his photograph was emblazoned on local news, CNN, and the Dallas Police Department’s official Twitter account, with the words “This is one of our suspects. Please help us find him!” above his photo.

Hughes had seen groups like Open Carry Tarrant County, whose members—and leadership, which is white—carry long-arm rifles on the street in front of his tax-prep business, in accordance with the law. And as he made plans to attend the march he decided, for the first time, that he should do the same. Philando Castile, the Minnesota man whose shooting death had been captured on video prior to the march, had his right to carry a gun violated by the officer who shot him. Hughes decided that meant he had a responsibility to assert his own.
Read more



Open Thread: Sixty Pounds of Something in A Forty-Pound Sack

Nope, sounds to me like Mr. Trump may just have ingested sixty pounds of something stronger than Jeff Sessions’ “demon weed”…


President Trump
told reporters on Air Force One on Wednesday that his proposed border wall would have to be “transparent” to prevent Americans from being struck and killed by 60-pound sacks of drugs tossed over from the Mexican side.

“One of the things with the wall is you need transparency. You have to be able to see through it,” Trump said. He continued:

In other words, if you can’t see through that wall — so it could be a steel wall with openings, but you have to have openings because you have to see what’s on the other side of the wall.

And I’ll give you an example. As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them — they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over. As crazy as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall.

Trump acknowledges that the scenario he paints is somewhat “crazy,” but there is a kernel of truth to it. For decades, drug smugglers have employed an arsenal of sometimes cartoonish tactics — from tricycles to narco-subs to drone delivery — to ferry their wares north of the border.

One such tool is the drug catapult — or more accurately, the drug trebuchet: a medieval-era device capable of slinging heavy objects, typically marijuana bales, across hundreds of yards…

SUNY-Albany homeland security expert Brandon Behlendorf told Wired this week that it’s nearly impossible to design a wall tall or “transparent” enough to stop a well-built trebuchet.

“They’re launching drugs not five feet from the wall, or 10 feet from the wall, where a transparent wall would help,” Behlendorf said. “They’re launching it 100 feet over the wall, 150 feet over the wall. No amount of transparency is going to help you in that context.”…