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(3/17/17 update) From Russia, With Love..

la-pol-ca-swalwell-map-of-trump-s-ties-to-russia-20170309

As promised, I will keep updating this regularly with new developments. You’ll find the text of my original posts from 2/21 and 3/3 below, with new content since then highlighted in blue text. These past two weeks there hasn’t been as big a splash as the Flynn or Sessions revelations of weeks past. Instead, there has been a slow build-up of corroborating evidence around what’s already known, setting of the first Congressional hearing dates, and increasing calls for an independent panel or prosecutor. With those hearings set for March 20th, late March/April is likely to be an interesting time for further developments. Also, if you think this is becoming a long read, Political Wire has produced a complete timeline of Trump-Russia affairs dating back to the 80s that runs over 100 pages! Sometimes, where there’s smoke, there really is fire…

Among my various ventures into activism since the election, I joined an online group where each member takes ownership of two issues. This group is based on the theory that nobody can be continuously engaged on all issues all the time. So, for our adopted issues, we each update the group on new information, issue action calls when appropriate, etc.

As an election wonk, one of my adopted issues is the midterm elections. The other I’ve chosen is keeping track of developments regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump official contacts with Russia. Being a Cold War kid from Reagan’s 80s Cold War relapse and a lifelong fan of spy fact and fiction, it was perhaps inevitable.

The good news is that I’ll be sharing my work not just with my group, but also with all of you! Below I’ve gathered some of the major news items relating to Russian interference/Russian contact, complete with links, arranged roughly chronologically, and sorted into “confirmed”, “probable” and “read this at your own risk” categories.

I have endeavored to provide sources from reliable journalistic outlets for the most part. Based on everything I read putting this together, I am developing some firm suspicions, and will share those, along with updates, along the way. But for now, to quote a well-known not always reliable journalistic outlet:  I report, you decide.

Confirmed

  • Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort was confirmed in August 2016 to have had former Ukranian-President Viktor Yanukovych as a consulting client. Manafort’s firm received over $12 million in payments from Yanukovych’s political party between 2007 and 2012. Yanukovych has close ties to Russia, and his push for Russian ties and alleged role in Russian incursions in the Ukraine was part of the impetus for his ouster as President following popular demonstrations. The status of Manafort’s communications with Russia are under FBI investigation.
  • Some sources believe Manafort was behind the watering down of a plank to the Republican platform calling for U.S. support in arming the Ukraine. The plank had been introduced to the foreign policy sub-committee by a Texas delegate who was a Reagan-administration appointee and an observer in the Ukraine’s first free elections in 1998. It was then weakened to include only “non-lethal support” was under pressure from two pro-Trump delegates who were in cell phone communication with someone after saying they had to call to talk to “Mr. Trump.”.
  •  The New York Times has reported that, in addition to Manafort, three other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election. American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election. Investigations into Manafort and the other three (Michael Flynn, Carter Page, and Roger Stone) are ongoing, but so far have not uncovered evidence of such cooperation.

  • Christopher Steele, a former MI6 official posted in Russia in the 90s, produced a 35-page dossier detailing allegations of improper contacts between Trump and Russian officials. The research behind the memo originally began in September 2015 as part of opposition research by Republican opponents of Trump. Steele was hired by the firm doing the research, Fusion GPS , in June 2016 after Russian interference allegations surfaced. It was subsequently continued in the Fall with Democratic clients paying Fusion GPS for the research. The dossier is composed of multiple several page memos written between June and December 2016. Pieces of it had circulated among several news organizations, intelligence agencies, and senior officials including John McCain. An intelligence briefing on the memo was shared with President-elect Trump and President Obama in early January 2017.  Multiple sources in British intelligence describe Steele as an experienced and professional asset, whose work was usually of very high quality.
  • It is important to note that some details in the memos have been proven incorrect, most prominently a meeting between Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and a Russian official in Prague. The news organizations that were in possession of the memos pre-election had not gone public with them because they could not confirm enough details to feel comfortable releasing them.
  • In December 2016, the Russian government sold a 19.5% share of the state oil company, Roseneft. The sale was facilitated by finance companies in Qatar and Singapore, involves a Cayman Island holding-company, and the ultimate identity of the purchaser cannot be verified from public documents. The potential significance of this is that one of the allegations of the Steele memos is that Putin offered Trump a 19% share of Roseneft if he was elected and agreed to lift sanctions on Russia.
  • Oleg Erovinkin, a former KGB official and key aide to Igor Sechin, the head of the Russian State Oil company Roseneft and prominent figure in the Steele memos, was found dead in Moscow on 12/26/16. Steele’s documents indicate one of his primary sources was a figure close to Sechin, and there is speculation that Erovinkin was that source. The death appears to be due to foul play.
  • Russian media also announced that three senior officials of the FSB, the successor to the KGB, and a cyber-security contractor working with the FSB had been arrested and charged with treason on 1/28/17. Analysts believe that, given the timing, and the kinds of people involved, that this move likely has something to do with the U.S. intelligence finding on high-level Russian official participation in manipulating the U.S. election.
  • A Trump associate with definite ties to Russia is now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. As head of ExxonMobil, Tillerson was instrumental in negotiating billions of dollars worth of business with Roseneft. He was even been awarded the Order of Friendship by Vladimir Putin, one of the highest honors Russia gives to private citizens. Tillerson has also frequently spoken out in the past against the sanctions placed on Russia after its intervention in the Ukraine, perhaps not coincidentally because lifting those sanctions and pipeline access to the Ukraine, would make Exxon’s deal with Roseneft vastly more profitable.
  • In a pre-Superbowl interview with Bill O’Reilly on 2/5/17, President Trump responded to O’Reilly’s questioning his support for the Putin regime given that Putin is a “killer” by saying, “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” This echoes statements he made in response to similar questions from Joe Scarborough in December 2015: “I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, a lot of killing, a lot of stupidity.” Many, including some Republicans, questioned this latest assertion of moral equivalence between the U.S. and the Putin regime. Meanwhile, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov demanded an apology from Fox.
  • Meanwhile, the House is not so interested in doing investigations on Russian election interference, or on Michael Flynns’s Russian contacts. However, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter on 2/15/17 that urged the Office of Government Ethics to investigate who leaked information about Flynn to the media.
  • It was revealed on 3/7/17 that Page also made a trip to Moscow in July 2016, which he had first cleared with then-Trump campaign manager Corey LewandowskiA few weeks before he traveled to Moscow to give a July 7 speech, Page asked J.D. Gordon, his supervisor on the campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee, for permission to make the trip, and Gordon strongly advised against it. Page then emailed Lewandowski and spokeswoman Hope Hicks asking for formal approval, and was told by Lewandowski that he could make the trip, but not as an official representative of the campaign. Lewandowski claims that he does not specifically remember the e-mail, but does not dispute the accuracy of the story.
  • The House Intelligence Committee announced that it will hold its first hearings on Russian election interference on March 20th, 2017. Invited to testify are: FBI Director James Comey, National Security Agency head Adm. Mike Rogers, former CIA director John Brennan, former national intelligence director James Clapper, former acting attorney general Sally Yates and two senior officials from the cybersecurity firm that first put the finger on the Russians for the breach of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). While former NSA head Michael Flynn is not on the list, it was Yates who first informed the administration of his lying about pre-inauguration meetings with the Russian Ambassador, shortly before the President fired her. 

Looking Probable

  • Shifts in Russian media coverage of Trump following Flynn’s resignation have led some to wonder if Russia is souring on Trump. Such media coverage is thought to usually takes its cues from Putin. This comes as Defense Secretary Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson, and Vice President Mike pence have all made statements criticizing Russia and/or re-affirming support for NATO and Ukrainian independence.

Unconfirmed (use with extreme caution)

  • The Steele Dossier has been published in full by Buzzfeed. As you’ll see above, some parts of it have been shown to be incorrect. And as you’ll also see above and below, other parts of it have been verified. You can find a link to the full document and a description of some of the controversy around it in the story here. As a still-uncorroborated source, I don’t plan to get into the gory details in this venue, but the gist of the document’s allegations are as follows:
    • Russia has been cultivating ties with Trump for years.
    • Part of this cultivation involves financial incentives promised to him should he become President and lift sanctions.
    • Russian intelligence agencies also have compromising material on Trump that leaves him vulnerable to blackmail.
    • There were extensive ties and cooperation between Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence.
  • The alleged but not confirmed to be from real-White House staff RoguePOTUS Twitter account alleged that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Ryan-ally White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus had insisted that Vice President Mike Pence sit in on Trump’s 1/28/17 informal first call with Vladimir Putin, despite Trump’s reluctance, over concerns that the Russian leader does indeed have compromising material on the President. Trump’s behavior during the call was said to increase those concerns.
  • I am extremely leery of “death lists” such as mysterious deaths associated with the JFK assassination, the Clinton “death list” etc. They tend to lump together genuine puzzlers with things that really aren’t that suspicious, have only a tangential relationship, and ignore the many not dead people also involved. But I will pass on this list of eight figures associated with the Steele dossier who have died. Some of these are not easy to directly relate to anything in particular, but others, like the deaths of Erovinkin & Oronov which are discussed in the “Confirmed” section above, are extremely interesting in terms of details and timing. I report, you decide.

(3/2/17 update) From Russia, With Love..

from_russia_with_love_logo

As promised, I will keep updating this regularly with new developments. You’ll find the text of my original post from 2/21/17 below, with new content since then highlighted in blue text. One thing I find  tremendously encouraging is that there are another 11 bullet points to add to the 26 that were already in this post just in the last 10 days. With three separate FBI probes, a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, and the New York Times and the Washington Post clearly having dedicated teams on this, one thing the story won’t do is go away. Which is good, because how and where a foreign regime hostile to Democracy interfered in our election, and whether or how our new administration is or is not tied to that regime are questions that every American, Left, Right or Center, deserves answers to.

Among my various ventures into activism since the election, I joined an online group where each member takes ownership of two issues. This group is based on the theory that nobody can be continuously engaged on all issues all the time. So, for our adopted issues, we each update the group on new information, issue action calls when appropriate, etc.

As an election wonk, one of my adopted issues is the midterm elections. The other I’ve chosen is keeping track of developments regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump official contacts with Russia. Being a Cold War kid from Reagan’s 80s Cold War relapse and a lifelong fan of spy fact and fiction, it was perhaps inevitable.

The good news is that I’ll be sharing my work not just with my group, but also with all of you! Below I’ve gathered some of the major news items relating to Russian interference/Russian contact, complete with links, arranged roughly chronologically, and sorted into “confirmed”, “probable” and “read this at your own risk” categories.

I have endeavored to provide sources from reliable journalistic outlets for the most part. Based on everything I read putting this together, I am developing some firm suspicions, and will share those, along with updates, along the way. But for now, to quote a well-known not always reliable journalistic outlet:  I report, you decide.

Confirmed

  • Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort was confirmed in August 2016 to have had former Ukranian-President Viktor Yanukovych as a consulting client. Manafort’s firm received over $12 million in payments from Yanukovych’s political party between 2007 and 2012. Yanukovych has close ties to Russia, and his push for Russian ties and alleged role in Russian incursions in the Ukraine was part of the impetus for his ouster as President following popular demonstrations. The status of Manafort’s communications with Russia are under FBI investigation.
  • Some sources believe Manafort was behind the watering down of a plank to the Republican platform calling for U.S. support in arming the Ukraine. The plank had been introduced to the foreign policy sub-committee by a Texas delegate who was a Reagan-administration appointee and an observer in the Ukraine’s first free elections in 1998. It was then weakened to include only “non-lethal support” was under pressure from two pro-Trump delegates who were in cell phone communication with someone after saying they had to call to talk to “Mr. Trump.”.
  •  The New York Times has reported that, in addition to Manafort, three other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election. American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election. Investigations into Manafort and the other three (Michael Flynn, Carter Page, and Roger Stone) are ongoing, but so far have not uncovered evidence of such cooperation.

  • Christopher Steele, a former MI6 official posted in Russia in the 90s, produced a 35-page dossier detailing allegations of improper contacts between Trump and Russian officials. The research behind the memo originally began in September 2015 as part of opposition research by Republican opponents of Trump. Steele was hired by the firm doing the research, Fusion GPS , in June 2016 after Russian interference allegations surfaced. It was subsequently continued in the Fall with Democratic clients paying Fusion GPS for the research. The dossier is composed of multiple several page memos written between June and December 2016. Pieces of it had circulated among several news organizations, intelligence agencies, and senior officials including John McCain. An intelligence briefing on the memo was shared with President-elect Trump and President Obama in early January 2017.  Multiple sources in British intelligence describe Steele as an experienced and professional asset, whose work was usually of very high quality.
  • It is important to note that some details in the memos have been proven incorrect, most prominently a meeting between Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and a Russian official in Prague. The news organizations that were in possession of the memos pre-election had not gone public with them because they could not confirm enough details to feel comfortable releasing them.
  • In December 2016, the Russian government sold a 19.5% share of the state oil company, Roseneft. The sale was facilitated by finance companies in Qatar and Singapore, involves a Cayman Island holding-company, and the ultimate identity of the purchaser cannot be verified from public documents. The potential significance of this is that one of the allegations of the Steele memos is that Putin offered Trump a 19% share of Roseneft if he was elected and agreed to lift sanctions on Russia.
  • Oleg Erovinkin, a former KGB official and key aide to Igor Sechin, the head of the Russian State Oil company Roseneft and prominent figure in the Steele memos, was found dead in Moscow on 12/26/16. Steele’s documents indicate one of his primary sources was a figure close to Sechin, and there is speculation that Erovinkin was that source. The death appears to be due to foul play.
  • Russian media also announced that three senior officials of the FSB, the successor to the KGB, and a cyber-security contractor working with the FSB had been arrested and charged with treason on 1/28/17. Analysts believe that, given the timing, and the kinds of people involved, that this move likely has something to do with the U.S. intelligence finding on high-level Russian official participation in manipulating the U.S. election.
  • A Trump associate with definite ties to Russia is now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. As head of ExxonMobil, Tillerson was instrumental in negotiating billions of dollars worth of business with Roseneft. He was even been awarded the Order of Friendship by Vladimir Putin, one of the highest honors Russia gives to private citizens. Tillerson has also frequently spoken out in the past against the sanctions placed on Russia after its intervention in the Ukraine, perhaps not coincidentally because lifting those sanctions and pipeline access to the Ukraine, would make Exxon’s deal with Roseneft vastly more profitable.
  • In a pre-Superbowl interview with Bill O’Reilly on 2/5/17, President Trump responded to O’Reilly’s questioning his support for the Putin regime given that Putin is a “killer” by saying, “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” This echoes statements he made in response to similar questions from Joe Scarborough in December 2015: “I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, a lot of killing, a lot of stupidity.” Many, including some Republicans, questioned this latest assertion of moral equivalence between the U.S. and the Putin regime. Meanwhile, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov demanded an apology from Fox.
  • Meanwhile, the House is not so interested in doing investigations on Russian election interference, or on Michael Flynns’s Russian contacts. However, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter on 2/15/17 that urged the Office of Government Ethics to investigate who leaked information about Flynn to the media.

 

Looking Probable

  • Shifts in Russian media coverage of Trump following Flynn’s resignation have led some to wonder if Russia is souring on Trump. Such media coverage is thought to usually takes its cues from Putin. This comes as Defense Secretary Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson, and Vice President Mike pence have all made statements criticizing Russia and/or re-affirming support for NATO and Ukrainian independence.

 

Unconfirmed (use with extreme caution)

  • The Steele Dossier has been published in full by the Blaze. As you’ll see above, some parts of it have been shown to be incorrect. And as you’ll also see above and below, other parts of it have been verified. You can find a link to the full document and a description of some of the controversy around it in the story here. As a still-uncorroborated source, I don’t plan to get into the gory details in this venue, but the gist of the document’s allegations are as follows:
    • Russia has been cultivating ties with Trump for years.
    • Part of this cultivation involves financial incentives promised to him should he become President and lift sanctions.
    • Russian intelligence agencies also have compromising material on Trump that leaves him vulnerable to blackmail.
    • There were extensive ties and cooperation between Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence.
  • The alleged but not confirmed to be from real-White House staff RoguePOTUS Twitter account alleged that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Ryan-ally White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus had insisted that Vice President Mike Pence sit in on Trump’s 1/28/17 informal first call with Vladimir Putin, despite Trump’s reluctance, over concerns that the Russian leader does indeed have compromising material on the President. Trump’s behavior during the call was said to increase those concerns.

From Russia, With Love..

from-russia-with-love-banner

Among my various ventures into activism since the election, I joined an online group where each member takes ownership of two issues. This group is based on the theory that nobody can be continuously engaged on all issues all the time. So, for our adopted issues, we each update the group on new information, issue action calls when appropriate, etc.

As an election wonk, one of my adopted issues is the midterm elections. The other I’ve chosen is keeping track of developments regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump official contacts with Russia. Being a Cold War kid from Reagan’s 80s Cold War relapse and a lifelong fan of spy fact and fiction, it was perhaps inevitable.

The good news is that I’ll be sharing my work not just with my group, but also with all of you! Below I’ve gathered some of the major news items relating to Russian interference/Russian contact, complete with links, arranged roughly chronologically, and sorted into “confirmed”, “probable” and “read this at your own risk” categories.

I have endeavored to provide sources from reliable journalistic outlets for the most part. Based on everything I read putting this together, I am developing some firm suspicions, and will share those, along with updates, along the way. But for now, to quote a well-known not always reliable journalistic outlet:  I report, you decide.

Confirmed

  • Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort was confirmed in August 2016 to have had former Ukranian-President Viktor Yanukovych as a consulting client. Manafort’s firm received over $12 million in payments from Yanukovych’s political party between 2007 and 2012. Yanukovych has close ties to Russia, and his push for Russian ties and alleged role in Russian incursions in the Ukraine was part of the impetus for his ouster as President following popular demonstrations. The status of Manafort’s communications with Russia are under FBI investigation.
  • Some sources believe Manafort was behind the watering down of a plank to the Republican platform calling for U.S. support in arming the Ukraine. The plank had been introduced to the foreign policy sub-committee by a Texas delegate who was a Reagan-administration appointee and an observer in the Ukraine’s first free elections in 1998. It was then weakened to include only “non-lethal support” was under pressure from two pro-Trump delegates who were in cell phone communication with someone after saying they had to call to talk to “Mr. Trump.”.
  •  The New York Times has reported that, in addition to Manafort, three other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election. American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election. Investigations into Manafort and the other three (Michael Flynn, Carter Page, and Roger Stone) are ongoing, but so far have not uncovered evidence of such cooperation.

  • Christopher Steele, a former MI6 official posted in Russia in the 90s, produced a 35-page dossier detailing allegations of improper contacts between Trump and Russian officials. The research behind the memo originally began in September 2015 as part of opposition research by Republican opponents of Trump. Steele was hired by the firm doing the research, Fusion GPS , in June 2016 after Russian interference allegations surfaced. It was subsequently continued in the Fall with Democratic clients paying Fusion GPS for the research. The dossier is composed of multiple several page memos written between June and December 2016. Pieces of it had circulated among several news organizations, intelligence agencies, and senior officials including John McCain. An intelligence briefing on the memo was shared with President-elect Trump and President Obama in early January 2017.  Multiple sources in British intelligence describe Steele as an experienced and professional asset, whose work was usually of very high quality.
  • It is important to note that some details in the memos have been proven incorrect, most prominently a meeting between Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and a Russian official in Prague. The news organizations that were in possession of the memos pre-election had not gone public with them because they could not confirm enough details to feel comfortable releasing them.
  • In December 2016, the Russian government sold a 19.5% share of the state oil company, Roseneft. The sale was facilitated by finance companies in Qatar and Singapore, involves a Cayman Island holding-company, and the ultimate identity of the purchaser cannot be verified from public documents. The potential significance of this is that one of the allegations of the Steele memos is that Putin offered Trump a 19% share of Roseneft if he was elected and agreed to lift sanctions on Russia.
  • Oleg Erovinkin, a former KGB official and key aide to Igor Sechin, the head of the Russian State Oil company Roseneft and prominent figure in the Steele memos, was found dead in Moscow on 12/26/16. Steele’s documents indicate one of his primary sources was a figure close to Sechin, and there is speculation that Erovinkin was that source. The death appears to be due to foul play.
  • Russian media also announced that three senior officials of the FSB, the successor to the KGB, and a cyber-security contractor working with the FSB had been arrested and charged with treason on 1/28/17. Analysts believe that, given the timing, and the kinds of people involved, that this move likely has something to do with the U.S. intelligence finding on high-level Russian official participation in manipulating the U.S. election.
  • A Trump associate with definite ties to Russia is now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. As head of ExxonMobil, Tillerson was instrumental in negotiating billions of dollars worth of business with Roseneft. He was even been awarded the Order of Friendship by Vladimir Putin, one of the highest honors Russia gives to private citizens. Tillerson has also frequently spoken out in the past against the sanctions placed on Russia after its intervention in the Ukraine, perhaps not coincidentally because lifting those sanctions and pipeline access to the Ukraine, would make Exxon’s deal with Roseneft vastly more profitable.
  • In a pre-Superbowl interview with Bill O’Reilly on 2/5/17, President Trump responded to O’Reilly’s questioning his support for the Putin regime given that Putin is a “killer” by saying, “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” This echoes statements he made in response to similar questions from Joe Scarborough in December 2015: “I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, a lot of killing, a lot of stupidity.” Many, including some Republicans, questioned this latest assertion of moral equivalence between the U.S. and the Putin regime. Meanwhile, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov demanded an apology from Fox.
  • Meanwhile, the House is not so interested in doing investigations on Russian election interference, or on Michael Flynns’s Russian contacts. However, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter on 2/15/17 that urged the Office of Government Ethics to investigate who leaked information about Flynn to the media.

 

Looking Probable

  • Shifts in Russian media coverage of Trump following Flynn’s resignation have led some to wonder if Russia is souring on Trump. Such media coverage is thought to usually takes its cues from Putin. This comes as Defense Secretary Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson, and Vice President Mike pence have all made statements criticizing Russia and/or re-affirming support for NATO and Ukrainian independence.

 

Unconfirmed (use with extreme caution)

  • The Steele Dossier has been published in full by the Blaze. As you’ll see above, some parts of it have been shown to be incorrect. And as you’ll also see above and below, other parts of it have been verified. You can find a link to the full document and a description of some of the controversy around it in the story here. As a still-uncorroborated source, I don’t plan to get into the gory details in this venue, but the gist of the document’s allegations are as follows:
    • Russia has been cultivating ties with Trump for years.
    • Part of this cultivation involves financial incentives promised to him should he become President and lift sanctions.
    • Russian intelligence agencies also have compromising material on Trump that leaves him vulnerable to blackmail.
    • There were extensive ties and cooperation between Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence.
  • The alleged but not confirmed to be from real-White House staff RoguePOTUS Twitter account alleged that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Ryan-ally White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus had insisted that Vice President Mike Pence sit in on Trump’s 1/28/17 informal first call with Vladimir Putin, despite Trump’s reluctance, over concerns that the Russian leader does indeed have compromising material on the President. Trump’s behavior during the call was said to increase those concerns.

Why I Am Rejecting the Call to Whiteness

immigration-history

In the midst of the 2016 election writer, journalist, and astute political commentator Farai Chideya posted a draft essay on what she calls The Call to Whiteness. In her view, an appeal to White Nationalism is one of the powerful forces behind Trump’s rise, and even whites who don’t identify with it at all have to grapple with it. Because it’s being issued, wanted or not, in their name. The whole short essay is well worth reading, but I’ll highlight here the closing section:

“It thus remains very much up to white America to control the baser urges of the call-to-whiteness. You are not above it, particularly if you have not bothered to learn about it — and especially if you claim it doesn’t exist or doesn’t concern you. The call-to-whiteness is being invoked in your name. Can you hear it now? And how will you respond? The world is waiting to know.”

So, for the record: I am rejecting the Call to Whiteness.

I’d like to talk about why. There are, of course, the vitally important and obvious “whys”:

  • Heeding it puts one on the wrong side of some of the worst events and systems of the last few centuries.
  • Race, biologically, is an unfounded fiction. It’s a social construct.
  • Race, as a social construct in America, is part of a structural system of Racism that benefits white people in so many ways that it’s practically invisible. Saying we should all be colorblind without taking further action to dismantle the system isn’t equality. It’s an attempt to keep the inequality invisible.
  • The idea that there’s oppression against whites, and especially against white men, is patently ridiculous in an America in which more than 80% of all top-level positions in business, government, and media continue to be help by white men. A small reduction in that total doesn’t constitute oppression. It’s just a slight re-balancing toward demographic reality.

But there’s also a series of experiential reasons that the Call to Whiteness makes no personal sense to me:

  • Having grown up in Coastal California in the 70s and 80s, there was literally never a time in my life that multiple colors, cultures, and languages weren’t a part of my everyday experience.
  • Being a bookish, uncoordinated, nearsighted boy with no aptitude for or interest in sports in American public school taught me a little something about how it feels to be a denigrated “other”.
  • Spending about 10% of my life living in various parts of Asia gave me plenty of experience of being someone who sometimes needs the comfort of their original language, who everyone else on the train is staring at, who people cross the street to avoid running in to.
  • In my working life I’ve been, variously, the only white person in an all-Chinese office, a straight employee at an LGBT-focused media company, and, quite frequently, one of a minority of men at the table in a non-profit or educational institution with largely female staff and managers.

I don’t pretend for a moment that my experiences equate to what it’s like to be the racial, gender, or sexual “other” in America. As a straight white male, I have experienced, and will continue to experience, many advantages and forms of ease I’m hardly even aware of. But my particular slice of life has given me an instinctive sympathy for the experience of those on the flip side of the American “Dream”.

I’m reminded in this respect that Bubble is as Bubble does. Yes, living in a multicultural urban setting constitutes a “bubble”. But, as several commentators have noted lately (here and here, for example) coming from a  rural or predominantly white world is no less of a bubble.

All of the above is why I am rejecting the call to whiteness. White friends, what about you?

While you contemplate your answer, the last word goes to a true American hero:

bw-white-background

Warrior

ww

Every four years, there comes a time when my blog posts, due to a life-long fascination with politics in general, and love of presidential electoral politics as my form of major league sports in particular, take a political turn. And then, once the election is over and things settle down, I return to all the other things I love to write about: Music. Writing and publishing. Geek culture. Science. Spirituality.

What I want to tell you now is, I absolutely would have done it.

If Hillary Clinton had won, I would have sunk back into my personal concerns and a kind of semi-apathy. I would have liked some things she did, disliked others, tut-tutted at the opposition, occasionally posted a story online or signed a petition, but that would have been about it. If it had been a “normal” Republican, a Jeb Bush, say, or a John Kasich, I would have been a little more active. But not much.

Return to normal, however, is no longer an option. This is not normal. Donald Trump is the most personally reprehensible nominee either party put forward in a century or longer. Maybe in ever. He doubled down on this by repeatedly attacking the very foundations of democracy and decency throughout his campaign. And since his “election” and inauguration, he’s tripled down on that by showing that he meant every poisonous, un-American word of it.

So I’ve been marching. Organizing like-minded people. Petitioning my Representatives. I made an offhand comment to a friend that this election made me a militant. Looking at the definition, though, that’s not quite right:

adjective
adjective: militant
  1. 1.
    combative and aggressive in support of a political or social cause, and typically favoring extreme, violent, or confrontational methods.

I’ll be confrontational certainly, but I’m not aiming to be violent. I know there are those who disagree. I still believe that it is possible to be active and fully committed without being violent and hating those who disagree. But even non-violent soldiers are still soldiers, and we must steel ourselves for the fight.

That brings us to another notable thing about the word militant. It comes from the 15th century Latin “militare” meaning “to serve as a soldier”. Which brought to mind one of their new favorite dismissive phrases for us: “Social Justice Warrior”. I would like to pick up that mantle.

They are abso-fucking-lutely right, and I am thrilled to be called a warrior on behalf of justice for all members of our great society. I’m starting with the methods our Democracy affords us. But make no mistake, we will not surrender justice and freedom to this budding despot. Our values are better, we’re in the right, and we will defend them, come what may. 

I do hope to keep writing about my favorite things. But I’ll also be writing about this. A lot. One of my primary weapons is the creative word. We’re in the fight now, for at least the next four years, and I will use all the best weapons at my disposal. I am a warrior.

amazon

 

Election 2016: Final Update!

voted

So, it turns out just enough space opened up in my schedule today for a quick lunch-time update to my 88 hours to go post from Friday. This really will be the final one though, since I’m in vendor demos all day tomorrow, and then home to watch results!

If you recall from my last post, at this stage it really is all about margins and momentum. I’ve updated the tables from that post, and on the popular vote front we find:

shift1

Extremely amusingly, despite plenty of movement in the individual components, the net effect is that each candidate went down slightly over the past three days, and they have the same net today that they did on Friday. No evidence of further last-minute movement toward Trump, and, based on these numbers, and assuming a roughly 6% third party vote and 50/50 split of the 4.5% remaining undecided, we’d end up with Clinton 48.9% to Trump 45.2%. Now, 3% is around a typical poll’s irreducible error-margin, so the end result could be higher or lower, but we can say that Clinton looks to be ahead outside any margin of error.

In the swing states that actually matter for the electoral college, we see the following (I’ve added Michigan, since a flurry of activity from both campaigns seems to indicate they think that it could be in play (or else they’re trying to fake each other out, which does happen)):

shift2

As one might expect this late in the campaign, nobody’s moved all that much- all margins are up or down within a half percent of where they were Friday. It does dispel the notion that Trump is having any kind of last-minute surge, though. Given the margin and momentum, Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, Michigan and Pennsylvania don’t really seem to be swingy, which would lead to this map:

270v1

This is about where we were on Friday- Clinton is one shy of the 270 needed, and for Trump to win he would have to take all six remaining swing states and the split electoral vote from Maine. He’s only leading in two of the six (Iowa and Ohio), and in one of the six (New Hampshire) Clinton has a steady lead with no signs of further erosion. If this holds, it would make her President, as follows:

270v2

In which case the remaining three states would be superfluous, although victory in Nevada would help pad out her map, and North Carolina or especially Florida would make it possible to experience an upset loss in one or more other states and still pull through. All-in-all, not a bad place for her to be. And early voting totals in all three states are looking very good for Clinton, especially Nevada, where a surge in Latino voters has already banked enough votes that Trump would have to beat Clinton by double-digits on election day to still take the state.

I don’t have time to do pretty graphic inserts for all our other indicators. But it doesn’t really matter, because they aren’t too different from Friday, and, crucially, not a single one favors Trump:

indicators

While Clinton’s lead in the popular vote and her probable margin in the electoral college has gone up and down, it’s worth remembering that, over the last 6 months, Trump only ever had a lead for an aggregated total of eight days:

rcp

Exactly as one would suspect from this, it is much more likely than not that Hillary Clinton will be elected the next President of the United States tomorrow.

 

Election 2016: Two Weeks Notice

weeks

I really despaired of making it this far! It’s actually been both better and far, far worse than I would have imagined. But, putting aside the chance that one candidate refuses to concede the results and stirs up armed revolt, the election will indeed be over in two weeks. I’m as happy as the little pyromaniac girl in the above meme. Who hopefully is not a preview of things to come…

Hey! Do you know who usually wins a Presidential election? The candidate with higher likability. In our case this year, that translates to the candidate with lower net unlikability. But there is a clear difference, with Clinton in single digits at -9.6% net favorability, and Trump over 2x higher with -24.5%:

Two weeks out, you would predict on this basis that Clinton will very likely be the winner. What do the polls say? Amazingly, the same thing! Here is RCP’s polling average for the period of May 11th (the day Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee when Kasich and Cruz dropped out after losing Indiana) to today:

rcp

A word about “rigging”: Let’s say you have an average of hundreds of polls over five months by a range of media, educational institutions and private foundations, many of whom even have a house tendency to skew Republican. This average shows that the Democrat has led the Republican in an average of recent polls every single damn day except for two four-day periods, and has a lead of around five points with two weeks to go. If you see that Democrat win, you are not seeing a stolen election. You’re seeing exactly how voters have told pollsters they’re going to vote.

RCP is not the only poll-averaging game in town. HuffPost Pollster also does a polling average, to which they further make trendline adjustments. They have Clinton ahead by around 7 points:

huff

Ah, but what about that wily electoral college? RCPs map of “solid” and “lean” states currently shows a narrow Clinton victory even without the remaining swing states:

rcp-electoral

Their “no toss-ups” map expands the margin even further:

notoss

A word about “rigging”: Let’s say you have an average of hundreds of state polls by a range of media, educational institutions and private foundations, many of whom even have a house tendency to skew Republican. This average at two weeks to go shows that the Democrat wins the electoral college even without the close states, and wins it by a lot more when all the narrow leads are added in. If you see that Democrat win the electoral college by a large margin, you are not seeing a stolen election. You’re seeing exactly how voters have told pollsters they’re going to vote.

270towin runs 10,000 simulations a night using the latest state polls, and comes to a similar conclusion:

270

The simulation’s margins have been wider and lower at certain points, but they’ve never shown Clinton not winning:

270med

All of the above are based on “where things are now” in some form or another, and there are still two weeks left. Nobody in modern Presidential history has come from the kind of position Trump is at now two weeks out and gone on to win, but it is worth pointing out that now does not equal Nov. 8. Forward looking models using various means of taking current data and projecting out are showing the following at 538.com:

538

HuffPost:

And DailyKos:

dk

You may notice that 538 is projecting somewhat higher odds for Trump than anyone else. if you want a really data geeked-out discussion of why, read here. Not to be outdone, an average of thousands of bettors over several betting markets are also overwhelmingly forecasting a Clinton victory:

bet

Finally, there is the theory that an election is a referendum on the incumbent, even when the incumbent isn’t running again. If so, Obama’s net job approval rating over the last few months would also indicate a Democratic victory:

approval

It hopefully doesn’t need to be said again, but every last indicator on the board would lead you to expect that Clinton will win. And, while the margin has been narrower at some times than others, this has been consistently true for the whole period since the primaries ended.

A sizable Clinton victory in two weeks isn’t a sign of a stolen election, it’s what you’d expect to see based on all available data.