Monday, February 18, 2019

What you (and especially your Trump supporting friends and family) should know and what you should ask yourself about Russia and Trump

Essay: 
Russia is a criminal enterprise. The Russian government does not operate for the benefit of its people but for the purpose of accumulating great wealth for its elite, the oligarchs.
Russia is the name of what’s left of the country that was formerly the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR. This was a communist regime and the second most powerful country in the world. They strove for dominance over Eastern Europe, Eurasia, and elsewhere through military power and police state tactics. The USSR was the antithesis of US values of peace, liberty, and free enterprise. The US and the USSR were adversaries. Their only common interest was not to be blown up in a nuclear war.
The fall of the Soviet Union in 1989-1990 was a great event for many countries that had been under the domination of the Soviets, and on the surface appeared to be a relief to Americans for the promise of an end to the Cold War or at least a reduction of the threat of nuclear holocaust. However, to the politicians who rose to power after the fall, the “new” Russia presented a harsh reality as well as incredible opportunities. The reality was that the former Soviet economy was not a powerhouse among nations, and its military might was not respected as a world-domineering threat. The opportunities were that all of the means of production, natural resources, and financial institutions that had belonged to the citizens of the Soviet Union were “up for grabs”. Those in power and their friends essentially assumed control of the people’s national assets for the benefit of themselves and thus became incredibly wealthy. These powerful people became the Russian Oligarchs, men who raided their country and stole its wealth for their personal benefit. Their actions were criminal, and Russia evolved from a socialist state to a kleptocracy, a criminal enterprise. The head of that criminal enterprise is Vladimir Putin. Putin and the US continue to share one and only one common interest, which is not getting blown up in a nuclear war. This is true for most Americans, but not all Americans.
This is a basic truth that must be recognized in any discussion of current politics and foreign affairs.
How do the US and its allies keep Russia’s military and political aggressions in check?
While Russia and Putin’s motives center around money and the accumulation of wealth, these motives go hand in hand with the desire to return the country of Russia to the power and geopolitical dominance that had defined its place in the world order during the Soviet era. This desire was manifested in aggressions against the former Soviet republic of Georgia and later against Ukraine and Crimea. There are basically three possible approaches to countering actions by an adversary: war, diplomacy, or sanctions. Of course diplomacy is the most desired approach, war is the least, and sanctions are useful when diplomacy fails and war is to be avoided. The response to these aggressions by the US and its allies was to impose strict sanctions against Russia intended to severely punish its economy and restrict the criminal activities of its oligarchs. The sanctions included freezing the oligarchs’ assets held in Western countries and banning their travel to and within these countries. In short, the sanctions kept the oligarchs away from their money, billions upon billions of dollars that they could not touch. It has been estimated that Putin alone has as much as $230 billion of dollars frozen by sanctions.
The sanctions have been put in place by the US and its allies to put enough “hurt” on Russia that they will abandon their aggressive tactics against other countries. And those sanctions are hurting the oligarchs and are keeping Russia’s power in check. Because of this, Putin and his oligarchs want more than anything to get these sanctions lifted so that they can get their hands on their money and resume their criminal activities.
In the US sanctions against Russia have been imposed by the government and widely supported on a bipartisan basis in the Congress and in the Executive Branch. Bush and Obama imposed sanctions, and Hillary Clinton, Obama’s Secretary Of State, of course strongly supported the imposition and continuation of sanctions against Putin and the oligarchs.
This is a very important point. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was a strong proponent of keeping Vladimir Putin and his mob away from their money.
Donald Trump maintains that it was Hillary Clinton who “colluded” with Russia in the 2016 presidential campaign, and that highly placed employees of the FBI aided and abetted that collusion for the benefit of Clinton and for the purpose of her being elected as the next US president.
This begs the question. One, why would Putin and those who worked under him assist the candidate who strongly supported the economically crippling sanctions that were keeping them away from their money and who would surely continue or expand such sanctions once she became president? And two, why would a presidential candidate who was highly favored to win the presidential election up until the final few weeks of the campaign seek assistance from a foreign adversary who she sought to keep in check and who she had every reason to suspect was vehemently opposed to her likely victory?
Next up: Why would Putin want to help Trump win the US presidency, and why would Trump seek or at least accept that help?
Duh!?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Restoring "Normal Order"

I've been thinking about this for a bit and I've come up with a plan to reestablish some sanity and comity to the process of "staffing" the US Judicial System. The determination of the composition of the Judicial Branch is perhaps the highest prize in politics today, and we will continue to have election victories at ANY cost and an ineffectual Congress that shirks its checks and balances duties far into the future. Really, it all boils down to abortion, doesn't it? So thoughts on this?

1. The Senate Republicans and Democrats, regardless of who has the majority, must agree that the appointment of judges must be reasonable, fair, and equitable. McConnell has made clear that the president is a minor player in the process, so the Senate will be the determining factor as to who takes a seat on ANY bench.

2. The Senate rejects the Kavanaugh nomination outright and consents to the Merrick Garland nomination. Conservatives get their Gorsuch and Democrats get a very moderately liberal justice. But Garland is made senior to Gorsuch based on when he should have been confirmed.

3. The Senate agrees to fill current open seats at any federal level as follows: Seats will be filled five at a time to begin with. The power to nominate will rotate between the parties regardless of who has the majority or the White House. First the GOP nominates 5 jurists. The Senate has 90 days to vet and confirm. The non-nominating party gets one preemptory challenge per seat. Then the Democrats get the next 5 seats, and the same rules apply. For each 90 day cycle, the majority party gets one extra seat nomination and the president gets one extra seat nomination. In theory then, there can be as many as seven confirmations in a cycle, but the minority caucus, when the majority has the White House, will get at least 5 confirmations.

4. Once all vacancies are filled the process will return to "regular order" INCLUDING the ability for the minority to filibuster. The purpose of the filibuster is to prevent the seating of radical judges and force the president and the majority caucus to nominate and confirm moderately conservative or moderately liberal judges.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

The Legacy Of Donald J. Trump

Russia is not our enemy in the classic, war-time sense, and therefore treason does not apply. Russia IS however our adversary in the same sense that the Mafia is the adversary of the FBI. Russia is a criminal state, run by criminals, and led by the biggest criminal of them all. Russia is no longer motivated by ideology; it is motivated by greed.

Trump has NEVER been motivated by ideology; he is motivated by greed--in the form of money but also in the form of fame and flattery.

What we have here is not "treason". What we have here is corruption, corruption at a level never before seen in the United States. Trump has been corrupt probably since he had money to work with. The list of his corrupt dealings is long and legendary, and much of it has been not only public, but documented. He's been working with Russians for decades. It's a symbiotic relationship wherein he needs them as a source of cash to finance his deals, and they need him to launder the tremendous amounts of cash the Russian mob has stolen from the Russian state and others.

In my opinion it is likely that Trump never thought of "treason" or "collusion" or even "conspiracy". I think it never occurred to him that accepting help from Russia to win the election was illegal, much less wrong. It was simply a means to his ends, getting richer and getting praise. It never occurred to him to refuse the Russians. It never occurred to him to report their solicitations to the FBI. And in the end, if Trump loses his presidency, it may well be not because of treason, but because of the seemingly lesser crimes of failing to report illegal activities that he was aware of AND covering up that failure.

Trump could have continued his sweet life of golden toilet seats eponymous brands and airplanes, models and prostitutes, spying on naked teens, grabbing pussy, using Russian money, and cheating the lesser minions out of their money until he keeled over from a Big Mac heart attack, and nobody would have thought any less of him than they have after years of reading about him in the scandal rags or watching him on TV. But he made the mistake of reaching too far, lusting for the fame of the US presidency, and now all the history, known and previously unknown, will eventually paint the portrait of a man corrupt inside and out, and THAT, if there is justice in this world, will become the lasting legacy of Donald J. Trump.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The "Dossier" May Not Be True, But It Is NOT Fake

I posted this comment on the Bernie Goldberg blog in response to so many claims that the Chris Steele "dossier" is fake. It explains what I have learned about fake vs. verified vs. credible. Quote...
I'm going to spend a little effort relating some things I know and some things I believe about the dossier. I've read it. I've read books and news articles about it. I've read the under oath testimonies to the House and Senate Intel Committees of Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS, the company that contracted Christopher Steele. I've seen on TV former intelligence officers from both the US and the UK who have worked with Steele or have knowledge of his work and reputation.
You probably know by now that Steele is a former British Intelligence Officer with MI6. He has years of experience in his field and worked undercover in Russia for years until he was inadvertently outed by another agent. Since then he has formed his own investigative intelligence company and does contract work to gather intelligence most often for private companies who hire him for his expertise, his reputation, and his credibility. He has continued to maintain a network of people inside and outside Russia, and has worked for and against Russian companies in legal actions providing intelligence to be used in court. He was very instrumental in exposing the Russian participation in the FIFA soccer scandal a few years ago, and that is how the FBI knew of him and knew his work. Steele is known as a straight shooter and a highly credible person.
Fusion GPS is a US company that specializes in mostly corporate intelligence. If Company A is suing Company B, A will hire Fusion GPS to investigate B to find out every thing they can to use in their case against them. This includes anything from the financial reports and SEC filings of Company B to the personal lives of the relevant actors in B. But most of what they find is from the public record: real estate deals, any available public records of banking deals, contracts with the government, foreign investments, divorce filings, anything they can find on the record. The Free Beacon hired Fusion GPS because they wanted to know everything they could about Trump and his financial dealings. They didn't ask for dirt per se, just what was he up to. Glenn Simpson's Fusion GPS team went about collecting every bit of information they could get from the public record on Trump's dealings, especially with regard to Russia. At some point in the Summer of 2016 Simpson felt that they had gathered pretty much all they could from what was publicly available, and so contracted with Steele's company, someone they had worked with previously, to go beyond the public record. Simpson did not tell Steele what to look for or who the client was. His mission was "find out what Trump is doing in Russia".
Steele had been a spy for the UK in Russia, a very effective one. What he did in the private world was basically the same as what he'd done for Her Majesty: gather intelligence, in this case intelligence about what Trump was doing with the Russians. The "dossier" is really not a dossier but a series of intelligence reports which he and Fusion GPS referred to as memos. Since public records were for the most part unavailable to him, he mostly used his connections to the intelligence community and politics in and around Russia and the Kremlin. Steele refers to his contacts or sources as "a contact" or "a trusted contact" or "a credible person close to" a specific person in the Russian government or oligarchy. Here is an excerpt from his memo of July 2016:
1. Speaking in July 2016, a Russian source close to Rosneft President, PUTIN close associate and US-sanctioned individual, Igor SECHIN, confided the details of a recent secret meeting between him and visiting Foreign Affairs Adviser to the Republican presidential candidate Donald TRUMP, Carter PAGE.
2. According to SECHIN's associate, the Rosneft President (CEO) had raised with PAGE the issues of future bilateral energy cooperation and prospects for an associated move to lift Ukraine-related western sanctions against Russia. PAGE had reacted positively to the demarche by SECHIN but had been generally non-committal in response.
3. Speaking separately, also in July 2016, an official close to Presidential Administration Head, S. Ivanov, confided in a compatriot that a senior colleague in the Internal Political Department of the PA, DIVYEKIN (nfd) also had met secretly with PAGE on his recent visit. Their agenda had included DIVEYKIN raising a dossier of "kompromat" the Kremlin possessed on Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, and its possible release to the Republican's campaign team.
4. However, the Kremlin official close to S, IVANOV added that s/he believed DIVEYKIN also had hinted (or indicated more strongly) that the Russian leadership also had "kompromat" on TRUMP which the latter should bear in mind in his dealings with them.
As you can see, this is an intelligence report that relies heavily on the word of people that Steele knows or has met with or has worked with in the past.While some of the dossier, for instance Trump's dealings with the Agalarovs surrounding the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow or his business partnership with Russian mobster Felix Sater can be verified, what cannot be verified must, like any intelligence report, be judged by its credibility and the credibility of its sources. As Simpson said under oath, Steele, as a long-time intelligence officer, is well versed in how to tell the credible from the BS.
Almost immediately into this project, Steele became alarmed at what he was finding out about Trump and the Russians, namely that the Russians had compromising information on Trump, and the pee tapes were a minor part. He found that the workings of cyber teams to sew chaos in the US election was directed by Putin personally in order to elect Trump with the 2 goals of ending the Ukraine and Magnitsky sanctions and returning Russia to its former glory as a world power. These efforts became so successful that Putin later ordered a pull back for fear of backlash against Russia by the US media.
Steel very soon went to the FBI because he felt a duty as an ally to America to let the US government know what the Russians were doing and how a potential US candidate could well be blackmailed at some time in the future. How the FBI dealt with this information is another story.
The whole point of this "essay" is to say, The "dossier" is not fake. It is the credible work product of a highly respected and credible former intelligence agent with no bias and no goal but to "find out what Trump is doing in Russia". Is it all true? That is not and probably can't be known for sure, so when the FBI or Comery says it hasn't been verified it's because it can't be. And BTW, the "salacious" parts of the dossier play a surprisingly small part in the dossier as a whole.
Is the dossier credible? Based on Steele's experience, background, and previous work the US intelligence community thinks so, and obviously I think so.
The dossier is not fake. To be fake, the dossier would have to have been entirely made up by Steele. He had no motive to do so. To the contrary, a fake dossier exposed would have ruined his reputation and destroyed his career and business. For $160,000? I don't think so.
Today I realized that there is a fourth status that can be applied to intelligence work such as the dossier. Along with fake, unverified, and credible, there is corroborated. See my earlier post on possible corroboration of the dossier by similar information they had received previously and separately.
Update: Since writing the above new developments have come to light. Trump supporters are now claiming that the Steele memo was not his own work product but was based on information given to him from someone else. The story goes that a man named Cody Shearer, a "fixer" for the Clintons, created his own "dossier" which he gave to Clinton buddy Sid Blumenthal who then gave it to Steele. The headline is "Hillary Clinton's Fingerprints All Over The Dossier". Here's the thing though. The story also says that the Shearer dossier is developed from different sources than the Steele dossier. What this actually means is that the "unverified" Steele dossier is in fact corroborated by the Shearer dossier.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

All Lives Matter?

Imagine you are out to dinner at a nice restaurant, and you are enjoying your filet mignon when a large piece of meat becomes lodged in your throat. You begin to choke. Your face begins to turn blue. The waiter is passing by and you point to your throat and mouth the words, "I need to breathe."

The waiter looks at you and says, "All people need to breathe" and continues toward the kitchen.

The waiter is 100% correct, of course, but he is not addressing YOUR issue. He's telling you that you HAVE NO ISSUE. But you think you do, don't you?

This is the same thing as saying "All lives matter." All lives do matter, and black lives matter, too! When someone says "All lives matter" they are simply blowing off people who believe they are subject to social injustices. Would YOU be mad?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Why Hillary Clinton Was Not Indicted

All Hillary Clinton opponents, haters and "dislikers" just KNOW that she got away with crimes that they just KNOW she is unquestionable guilty of. It's a given, because...well...it's Hillary Clinton.

They KNOW she committed a crime because they BELIEVE James Comey said so:

To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions.
Note that Comey does not suggest a criminal act nor criminal punishment here. He is talking about breaking RULES and possibly losing a security clearance and being reprimanded or fired.

Here is an article that is a classic example of HRC opponents' "proof" that Hillary Clinton committed a crime.

That article is wrong on many points.

The quote of section 793 has a number of ellipses including the part where the subject must have the intent to willfully damage the United States.Read the full section. There is no case: https://www.law.cornell.edu...

The article misconstrues section 1924. There is no evidence that Hillary Clinton REMOVED any classified information from anywhere. She received a small amount of classified information, but she didn't remove it from anywhere. Further it requires the INTENT to remove classified material, and since the FBI found no classified material that was properly marked as classified, there is no way to prove that HRC had any intent. There is no case: https://www.law.cornell.edu...

As to section 798 the article leaves out Whoever knowingly and willfullycommunicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information. There is no way it can be proved that HRC knowingly AND willingly communicated ANYTHING to an unauthorized person much less for the purpose of causing harm to the US. There is no case: https://www.law.cornell.edu...

The article claims HRC broke section 2071, but the section requires that the subject willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, or destroys classified information. There is no evidence that HRC concealed, removed,, mutilated, obliterated, or destroyed any classified information and certainly not willfully. Can't be proved. There is no case: https://www.law.cornell.edu...

There is a reason Comey believed no reasonable prosecutor would bring a case against Hillary Clinton. There was no way to prove that she broke the law.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Russia Investigation In Simple Terms

I hope I can explain this so that a six year-old can understand it.

Donald J. Trump is a business man who has made and lost a lot of money. He claims his business is primarily real estate, but his real business is promoting the Trump brand.

Although Trump has always been wealthy because of his inheritance, it takes more than personal wealth to reach the heights of Trump's "success". The old saying goes, "It takes money to make money." While true, it works on a grander scale if the money you use to make money comes from somebody else. And THIS is what Trump has been the most successful at.

For purposes of this post, I'm going to start with the casinos. Trump decided that he wanted to make a name for himself by investing in casinos in Atlantic City. He bought and renovated the Taj Mahal and eventually gained ownership of three other casinos. This became problematic almost immediately because:


  1. Trump didn't have the first clue about running casinos and he fired everyone who did
  2. Trump's casinos were essentially in competition among themselves
  3. There was an economic downturn
Trump tried several methods to keep his casino businesses alive. He renegotiated the loans with the banks who finance the casinos. He sold stock in the casino companies to raise more cash. He got his father to buy $3.5 million in casino chips which his father never used or cashed in. In other words it was a gift of $3.5 million. And because he went bankrupt, the stockholders lost all their money.

At some point the banks said "no more". They decided that they were no longer going to loan money to Trump. Since Trump doesn't use his own money, he had to find some place else to raise money to fund his businesses.

Enter the Russians. The Russian Oligarchs are essentially a huge crime syndicate headed up by none other than Vladimir Putin. Putin is said to be the richest man in the world. Almost all of the money made by these mobsters is gained illegally and the rest of the world knows it. So the Russians have all of this cash money that most banks and countries won't touch, and they need to launder it to convert it to money that they can use in the world economy.

So we have cash poor Donald J. Trump and cash rich Vlad Putin, a match made in heaven. Without going into minute detail so as to keep this simple, the oligarchs have laundered their money through complex schemes involving Trump and his children buying and selling real estate for non-market amounts. The result is that Trump has made a lot of money through complex deals involving his partnerships, banks run by the Russian mob, and the Oligarchs themselves. This has resulted in a huge amount of cash belonging to the Russians but held in assets in the US. We would know more about this if we could see Trump's tax returns, and that's why he won't release them.

At some point, a US businessman who was investing in Russia found out through a Russian investigator named Magnitsky the details and depth of much of this illegal money gathering and laundering. The investigator was later killed, but the US businessman was so concerned about the Russian shenanigans that he convinced the US Congress and president to pass the Magnitsky Act which froze all the assets of the Russians in the US. Other countries followed suit.

Now, this is billions of dollars of money that Vlad and his mob can't touch. Putin's reaction? Halt all adoptions of Russian babies by American parents. This is very important because when you hear that Donald Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with Russians and ended up only talking about an "adoption program", or when you hear the Donald say that he and Vlad spent nearly an hour at a G-20 dinner talking about "adoptions", what they are really talking about is the Russians allowing adoptions IN EXCHANGE for unfreezing all their billions of dollars. That's what it's about.

As a quick side note, Putin hates Hillary Clinton for what she did against the Oligarchs as Secretary of State. Putin didn't think that Clinton could be defeated in 2016, but he figured that if he interfered in the election it could create chaos and jeopardize the legitimacy of her victory.

In summary:
  1. The US has frozen billions of Russian Oligarch's (Putin's) money through the Magnitshy Act
  2. Putin retaliated by freezing adoption of Russian children to US parents
  3. Trump is heavily involved financially with the Russians through complex partnerships and real estate deals. They have some degree of financial control over him
  4. Putin believes he is more likely to get his money out of the US if Trump is president
  5. Meetings between Trump or Trump family and campaign associates (Manafort, Flynn) regarding adoption are actually about how to help Trump win the election to repeal the Magnitsky Act
There is SO much more, but this is a major arc in the story, and it is why Mueller has hired so many experts in financial forensics and criminal law.