The bare chested Tonga man

Go Pita,  Go Pita.

His full name is Pita Taufatofua.  He caused quite a stir as the as the flag bearer of the country of Tonga in the Parade of Nations at opening ceremony in the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.  He is a martial arts expert. He was eliminated in the first round of taekwondo at the Olympics.     He was the first athlete from Tonga to compete in the Olympics in taekwondo. Fans were ecstatic to learn he qualified to be in the Olympics in Korea.  He did not disappoint, as once again, he came bare chested and well oiled as Tongo’s flag bearer.    It isn’t easy to qualify for the Olympics, but Pita did it twice, in two very different sports- taekwondo and cross country skiing.  He finished 114th place out of 119th skiers – accomplishing his goal of not finishing last.  I might add, even if he had finished last, his fans would still be there, because he is the only athlete from Tongo to qualify for the winter Olympics.   He just seems a real happy guy.

So, Go Pita Go.

 

Wikipedia: Pita Taufatofua

Wikipedia:  Tongo  (Pita now lives in Australia, but grew up in Tongo)

Stay tuned,

Dave

Russian meddling in the US Elections

Russia meddled in the United States 2016 elections.  This is no longer speculation.  Indictments from a grand jury have been handed down indictments on 13 Russian nationals.  I assume none will be extradited to the US for trial.   I have no idea if  trials in absentia are possible. Already, there has been a response from one indicted Russian, that these charges are absurd and that 13 Russians could hardly change the results of an election.  The indictments do not conclude the meddling changed election results.

There was an impact; it just can’t be assessed.     It was a small group of professionals who came here to influence our election, likely supported by a larger dedicated group in Russia.  I don’t know how many more Russians were involved within the US, who the Justice Department could not indite because they just don’t have sufficient evidence.  The Russians came here with cash to spend and I suspect most of it went to help Donald Trump.  Moreover, whatever their operatives were spending on the ground here, their Russian counterparts were likely spending much more on planning and directing as dirty a campaign as possible against Hillary Clinton.   Mueller does not need to identify the full extent of the Russian meddling to get indictments, just that significant expenditures were made.  A cool million probably satisfies this threshold.

The question which should be asked, is why Russia thought they could pull this off and sway the election in favor of Donald Trump?   I think you have to look at how few people really determine the outcome of a Presidential election.   Hillary Clinton lost Florida by 112,911 votes.  If she had won Florida, she would have a total of 256 electoral votes.  At that point, winning one or two  “swing states” would have put her over the top (270 electoral votes).   Clinton lost Pennsylvania by 44,262 votes, and  20 electoral votes she needed to secure victory.

How to influence the election in 2016 was obvious to Russians or anyone else following the US elections.  Florida was #1 swing state.  Northern Florida was predominately Republican and the more people who voted in the north, the better Trump’s chances of winning.   Dressing up a  woman in prison suit with a sign “Crooked Hillary” to get the media’s attention was perfect.  If the electorate only knew!

This is Mueller’s show.   No one really knows where his investigation is going, and his team as kept things pretty buttoned up, as they should be.   My take is Russia did a whole lot more, including working with Trump’s team before the election to get dirt on Hillary, through the email hacks.  We shall see.

Stay tuned,

Dave

News Junkies

There are health junkies, sports junkies, car junkies and news junkies.   Last Sunday, I happen to stumble upon a Porsche show, with models going back to the late 1950’s.   It was phenomenal.  These were car junkies.

News and sports junkies have something in common.  They know the history of players.  They can do a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking.  Example:  “What an idiot,  the wide end receiver was wide open and he decides to run with the ball.  I could have done 10X better.”

This is the case of FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, whose idle conversations on the news of the day and office politics has been blown way out of proportions by the right wing news media.   They were sharing their common interest in politics.   They thought their conversations were private.   They said mean things about both Democrats and Republicans.  This was part of an extra-marital affair.   The affair ended and so did Strzok assignment to Mueller’s team.

Initially, Peter Strzok was the agent in charge of investigating Hillary Clinton’s email.   It meant working nights and weekends, reviewing reams of emails.   I think the text messages to Lisa Page, a lawyer with the FBI, were at times an emotional release to the pressures of work.   The conclusions of the Wall Street Journal are:

Texts critical of Mr. Trump represent a fraction of the roughly 7,000 messages, which stretch across 384 pages and show no evidence of a conspiracy against Mr. Trump. Rather, a broader look shows an unvarnished and complex picture of the lives of an FBI agent and lawyer who found themselves at the center of highly charged probes.

Further the WSJ article states:

They logged long hours and frequently worked on weekends. They seemed dedicated to their jobs but didn’t hesitate to chastise or criticize many others beyond Mr. Trump, including their colleagues and each other. In deeply personal office chatter, they come across as intense, ambitious and unsure of their standing in the bureau.

The short text messages were understandable.  They were real busy.  After the email investigation concluded,  Peter Strzok was assigned to Mueller’s Russian investigation team for two months, before the text messages were discovered.  He was reassigned to work as the  head of Human Resources for the FBI.

Peter Strzod also suggested a change in Comey’s memo on Clinton’s email investigation, indicating that she was “extremely careless”  instead of “grossly negligent” to avoid a misrepresentation that her actions fit the legal definition of the crime of “grosss negligence”  as Secretary of State.    So, this was a change to clarify Comey’s statement.

If there was any inappropriate done  in Peter Strzok  work  either in the email or the Russian investigation, it would be in the text messages to his confidant.  All there is a lot of office chatter after very long hours at the office.

The take away message is,  your right to privacy changes dramatically once you pass through the office doors of your work.   The Fox news commentator’s obsession with FBI conspiracy theories  and misrepresentation is for rating purposes only.   I hope the best for these two FBI agents.   Time to move on.   You can call the entire Patriot’s team  f**king  idiots, and no one will come after you.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Inside the FBI Life of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, as Told in Their Text Messages

 

 

 

 

Born free – CFPB and Equifax

Mike Mulvaney is protecting consumers, by not letting their hard earned money go to government.   Specifically, the agency he runs, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is actually anti-consumer.   The average citizen can’t sue Wells Fargo for setting up phony accounts, or Equifax which was hacked and potentially data on 140 million Americans was stolen.  I’ve reported how he reversed course and did not require Nationwide Biweekly Administration to post bond while appealing the 8 million dollars against them.   It really says to this company,  at your level, crime actually does pay.

How bad was the Equifax breach?  According to the company:

The credit reporting company announced in September that the personal information of 145.5 million consumers had been compromised in a data breach. It originally said that the information accessed included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and — in some cases — driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers. It also said some consumers’ credit card numbers were among the information exposed, as well as the personal information from thousands of dispute documents.

It doesn’t sound like it could get any worse, but it just did.  Add to the list of stolen data, email addresses and tax identification numbers as revealed by the Senate Banking Committee.   Tax identification numbers are used by foreigners to pay income tax.   The breach now goes beyond US citizens, and has to be addressed at the federal level.

CFPB can not comment on an active investigation,  but there has been enough leaks to know that CFPB is doing very little (Huffington Post article):

Three sources say, though, Mulvaney, the new CFPB chief, has not ordered subpoenas against Equifax or sought sworn testimony from executives, routine steps when launching a full-scale probe. Meanwhile, the CFPB has shelved plans for on-the-ground tests of how Equifax protects data, an idea backed by Cordray.

Further, the Huffington Post reports:

The CFPB also recently rebuffed bank regulators at the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency when they offered to help with on-site exams of credit bureaus, said two sources familiar with the matter.

A lot of Americans are going to be subject to identity theft as a result of the security breach.   I am a victim and there is this horrible feeling of helplessness, as I suddenly found 20 false charges totaling $4500 on one credit card.   I take Mulvaney’s inaction quite personally.

Lending discrimination is against the law, but again nobody has the resources to challenge the large inter-state lending institutions.  CFPB has lost its enforcement powers.

I think the bureau can only be restored (Make America Great Again) by a change in administration.  Unfortunately, this will have to wait another three years.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

ZNet:  Equifax says more private data was stolen in 2017 breach than first revealed   (AP reporting)

Huffington Post: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Reportedly Scales Back Probe Of Equifax

Trump administration strips consumer watchdog office of enforcement powers in lending discrimination cases

What comes next?

Trump’s Feb 3 tweet is a piece of science fiction:

“This memo totally vindicates “Trump” in probe the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!”

The Nunes memo really says nothing about the Russian investigation headed by Robert Mueller.  The Republican party has continued to insist that Carter Page was a minor volunteer in the campaign, something like the guy in the back of the room and totally unimportant. But the wiretap FISA warrant was generating results, or it would not have been renewed 3 times.  Each renewal was presented in front of a different FISA judge.  Different FBI and DOJ officials signed off on these applications.   Trump knows this.  The House Intelligence Committee knows this.  And this is likely what is in the Democrat’s response.  And the Democrat response likely concludes that nothing improper was done.  In contrast to Trump’s tweet, the real parties that should be vindicated are the leaders of the FBI and DOJ.

The contents of the Trump dossier were never revealed by the media during the campaign.  The bottom line is the media showed great restraint by not publishing this story.  It was given to the media a couple months before the election and there was no way to collaborate the statements made in the dossier.  So, the “liberal media” should also be vindicated.

But the great disrupter  Trump has his dirt.   The fact that Nunes memo is based on inaccurate, misleading and omitted  information doesn’t bother him one iota.  Everything about his career, says honesty isn’t part of the winning hand.   It’s poker and bluffing your way through is just as good when things get hot.  Honest and gently – No.  Dishonest and loud wins.

Next steps.  He doesn’t care about  Democrat’s rebuttal so he wants Nunes  to bury that memo.  He would like Rosenstein to resign, but that won’t work because he has Session’s support.  So,  Trump sits there with this dirt, that has been publicly discredited  by just about everyone who has experience with FISA warrants, and the FBI, and thinks maybe I can get away with firing Rosenstein and ending the Mueller investigation.

He would like to see more of the “dump Rosenstein” ads on TV.  The Tea Party Patriots has a limited budgets to the Washington, DC area.   Fox News is doing their part in attacking the Mueller investigation.

This ultimately comes down to how apathetic and poorly informed are the American people.  Nunes memo  is a dangerous pretext, but more over, it is a dangerous president with a pretext to politicize the FBI and DOJ.

Stay tuned,

Dave

House Intelligence Committee

This is a committee with a majority of Republicans who will do anything they can to avoid a real investigation of the Russian inference in the 2016 election.   Instead, they will pursue construction of a false narrative based on carefully chosen information,     arranged creatively  to disparage the  Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton.

This is the Republican counter attack on the real events which took place during our national elections, in which the Russian government and operatives in the US,  secretly tried to influence the election in favor of Donald Trump.   There are many reasons the Russians  did not want Hillary Clinton to win, but in general it was her hard stance against Russian expansion.   It was clear she would work through the UN and other organizations to sanction Russia.

This committee serves a second purpose, which at the moment is vital to President Trump.    With the false narrative,  the committee has constructed an excuse to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.   Trump needs to do this in order to fire Robert Mueller.   This is the plan to avoid an obstruction of justice charge against the President.  Trump doesn’t know what Mueller has, but he doesn’t want to take chances.   Trump has said repeatedly he plays to win.

The cleverly constructed narrative  falls perfectly into Trump’s defense, which he has said often, that whatever the Republicans did wrong in the elections was nothing compared to the Democrats.  Representatives Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy excel at creative writing but fail in the honesty department.

The “path of least resistance” is a law of physics that applies to inanimate objects.  This path for Sessions,  Rosenstein and Wray is out the door, but I am real glad they are staying put.

This blog is a separate page and I will link it to a series of commentaries in the future.  The story was too big to keep it as one of my posts.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Nunes Memo

The Honorable Adam Schiff
Ranking Member, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Declassified by order of the President
February 2, 2018

January 18, 2018

To: HPSCI Majority Members
From: HPSCI Majority Staff
Subject: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation

 

Purpose

This memorandum provides Members an update on significant facts relating to the Committee’s ongoing investigation into the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and their use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during the 2016 presidential election cycle. Our findings, which are detailed below, 1) raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and 2) represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process.

Investigation Update

On October 21, 2016, DOJ and FBI sought and received a FISA probable cause order (not under Title VII) authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page from the FISC. Page is a US citizen who served as a volunteer advisor to the Trump presidential campaign. Consistent with requirements under FISA, the application had to be first certified by the Director or Deputy Director of the FBI. It then required the approval of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General (DAG), or the Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division.

The FBI and DOJ obtained one initial FISA warrant targeting Carter Page and three FISA renewals from the FISC. As required by statute (50 U.S.C. 1805(d)(1)), a FISA order on an American citizen must be renewed by the ISC every 90 days and each renewal requires a separate finding of probable cause. Then-Director James Comey signed three FISA applications in question on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one. Sally Yates, then-Acting DAG Dana Boente, and DAG Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of DOJ.

Due to the sensitive nature of foreign intelligence activity, FISA submissions (including renewals) before the ISC are classified. As such, the public’s confidence in the integrity of the FISA process depends on the court’s ability to hold the government to the highest standard — particularly as it relates to surveillance of American citizens. However, the rigor in protecting the rights of Americans, which is reinforced by 90-day renewals of surveillance orders, is necessarily dependent on the government’s production to the court of all material and relevant facts. This should include information potentially favorable to the target of the FISA application that is known by the government. In the case of Carter Page, the government had at least four independent opportunities before the FISC to accurately provide an accounting of the relevant facts. However, our findings indicate that, as described below, material and relevant information was omitted.

1) The “dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele (Steele dossier) on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application. Steele was a longtime FBI source who was paid over $160,000 by the DNC and Clinton campaign, via the law firm Perkins Coie and research firm Fusion GPS, to obtain derogatory information on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

a) Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior and FBI officials.

b) The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named U.S. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a U.S. Law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOJ at the time that political actors were involved with the Steele dossier). The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of — and paid by — the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.

2) The Carter Page FISA application also cited extensively a September 23, 2016, Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff, which focuses on Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow. This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News. The Page FISA application incorrectly assesses that Steele did not directly provide information to Yahoo News. Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News — and several other outlets – in September 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS. Perkins Coie was aware of Steele’s initial media contacts because they hosted at least one meeting in Washington DC. in 2016 with Steele and Fusion GPS where this matter was discussed.”

a) Steele was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations — an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI in an October 30, 2016, Mother Jones article by David Corn. Steele should have been terminated for his previous undisclosed contacts with Yahoo and other outlets in September — before the Page application was submitted to the FISC in October — but Steele improperly concealed from and lied to the FBI about those contacts.

b) Steele’s numerous encounters with the media violated the cardinal rule of source handling — maintaining confidentiality — and demonstrated that Steele had become a less than reliable source for the FBI.

3) Before and after Steele was terminated as a source, he maintained contact with DOJ via then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ official who worked closely with Deputy Attorneys General Yates and later Rosenstein. Shortly after the election, the FBI began interviewing Ohr, documenting his communications with Steele. For example, in September 2016, Steele admitted to Ohr his feelings against then-candidate Trump when Steele said he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” This clear evidence of Steele’s bias was recorded by Ohr at the time and subsequently in official FBI files – but not reflected in any of the Page FISA applications.

a) During this same time period, Ohr’s wife was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump. Ohr later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research, paid for by the DNC and Clinton campaign via Fusion GPS. The Ohrs’ relationship with Steele and Fusion GPS was inexplicably concealed from the FISC.

4) According to the head of the counterintelligence division, Assistant Director Bill Priestap, corroboration of the Steele dossier was in its “infancy” at the time of the initial Page FISA application. After Steele was terminated, a source validation report conducted by an independent unit within FBI assessed Steele’s reporting as only minimally corroborated. Yet, in early January 2017, Director Comey briefed President-elect Trump on a summary of the Steele dossier, even though it was — according to his June 2017 testimony – “salacious and unverified.” While the FISA application relied on Steele’s past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters, it ignored or concealed his anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations. Furthermore, Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.

5) The Page FISA application also mentions information regarding fellow Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, but there is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos. The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok. Strzok was reassigned by the Special Counsel’s Office to FBI Human Resources for improper text messages with his mistress, FBI Attorney Lisa Page (no known relation to Carter Page), where they both demonstrated a clear bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton, Whom Strzok had also investigated. The Strzok/Lisa Page texts also reflect extensive discussions about the investigation, orchestrating leaks to the media, and include a meeting with Deputy Director McCabe to discuss an “insurance” policy against President Trump’s election.

 

 

Dear Mr. President, We are not that stupid!

Building a pretext to fire Christopher Wray, Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein, to stop the Mueller Investigation, Trump tweeted this at 3:33 am today:

The top leadership and investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of the Democrats and against Republicans – something which should have been unthinkable just a short time ago,.   Rank and file are great people!

Mueller’s team were getting too close to an obstruction of justice charge against Donald Trump.  Bottom Line.

Christopher Wray:    Director of the FBI. Nominated by President Trump.  Assumed office August 2, 2017.  Trump did not go to the swearing in ceremony.   Registered Republican. Graduate of Yale University.  Confirmation was easy, the Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to recommend Wray, and the Senate voted 92 to 5 to confirm.

Since Andrew McCabe resigned,  a new Deputy Directed may be appointed by Director Wray,

Jeff Sessions: Attorney General of the US.    Nominated by President Trump.  An early supporter of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Sessions was nominated by Trump for the post of U.S. Attorney General. He was confirmed on February 8, 2017, with a 52–47 vote in the Senate, and was sworn in on February 9, 2017. From 1981 to 1993, he served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. Sessions was nominated in 1986 to be a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, but was not confirmed. Sessions was elected Attorney General of Alabama in 1994, and to the U.S. Senate in 1996, being re-elected in 2002, 2008, and 2014. During his time in Congress, Sessions was considered one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate. (Wikipedia)

Rod Rosenstein: Deputy AG.  He graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, with a B.S. in economics, summa cum laude in 1986. He earned his J.D. degree cum laude in 1989 from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He then served as a law clerk to Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He was a Wasserstein Fellow at Harvard Law School in 1997-98.

In 2007, President George W. Bush nominated Rosenstein to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Rosenstein was a Maryland resident at the time. Barbara Mikulski and new Democratic Maryland senator, Ben Cardin, blocked Rosenstein’s confirmation, stating that he did not have strong enough Maryland legal ties, and due to this Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy did not schedule a hearing on Rosenstein during the 110th Congress and the nomination lapsed. Andre M. Davis later was renominated to the same seat and confirmed by the Senate in 2009. Rob Rosenstein is  registered as a Republican.  He has served under both Republican and Democrat administrations.

Stephen Colbert:

Friends of Trump say the president sees the memo as a way to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. “Yes, it’s like when you’re losing at basketball, so you shoot the ref,” he said, slipping into Trump voice. “I guess I win — there’s nobody to tell me I didn’t. Now, who wants to be the new referee?”

James Comey:

Recent tweets:

All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would. But take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy.

Special Agent Andrew McCabe stood tall over the last 8 months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on. He served with distinction for two decades. I wish Andy well. I also wish continued strength for the rest of the FBI. America needs you.

I believe Donald Trump has underestimated the intelligence of the United States and its people, in his recent tweets.   This is not the way to make America greater, just Donald Trump greater.

Stay tuned,

Dave

PS.  I have not included the usual links.  The profiles of James Comey, Devin Nunes, Christopher Wray, Jeff Sessions and Rob Rosenstein are easily found on Wikipedia.   I did not include anything on Devin Nunes, but a summary can be found on Wikipedia.   He is a graduate of CalPoly with a masters in agriculture.  The news on the Nunes memo can be found by doing a Google search on “Nunes Memo.”

Finally, I note that James Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership will begin shipment on May 1, 2018.  Amazon is accepting pre-orders now.

 

 

Evidence of the Secret Society – alive and well on Varney and Company

I don’t normally get this emotional.   But what I just heard on Varney and C0mpany is nonsense.   But it is Trump’s nonsense.   Granted, I don’t listen to Fox News on a regular basis.  It does seem to be going all out for Trump’s twisted narrative about an FBI and Justice Department  without integrity or scruples.

Stuart Varney has reported on financial and stock market news for CNN.  He graduated from the London School of Economics.  He became a US Citizen in 2015.

He said by releasing the Nune’s memo, we will know whether there were a group of anti-Trump conspirators within the FBI and Department of Justice.  This is a sham and it is sad to see Fox News sinking this low.  There is no loyalty test for the FBI or the Attorney General.  Their loyalty is to enforcement of the law.

The reason both the FBI and the Attorney General have advised against release of this memo, is because (a) it makes false statements,  (b) it is put together by a partisan group whose only interest is in protecting Trump and his close associates, who might face criminal charges, and (c) the ongoing Russian investigation makes it impossible for the Democrats,  the FBI and the Department of Justice to respond.

Secrecy in law enforcement and criminal investigation is essential.   Further, whether the FISA warrants might have included some erroneous information, is an issue the President can task the Department of Justice to investigate in private.   To release this memo is to play politics and discredit the FBI, the Attorney General and the Department of Justice.   It play right into the hands of conspiracy radicals.

Stay tuned,

Dave

The Nunes Memo: Basic documents

The likely release of the House Committee on Intelligence memo, as prepared by the Republican majority on the committee is absolutely wrong.   What is astoundingly wrong, is that neither the Justice Department nor the FBI were given adequate time to review the memo, prior to a vote of the committee to make it public.

The Deputy Attorney General met with White House officials to explain why release of the memo would be “extremely reckless” according to the New York Times.  The Department of Justice can not respond openly as the Russian investigation is proceeding.   Everyone who works in law enforcement know the importance of keeping information secret.  Until actual criminal charges are presented in court,  those individuals, be they Americans or foreign nationals, do not have the right to know what the bits and pieces of the  FBI or Department of Justice’s  “raw intelligence.”     The House Committee is undercutting the FBI and Department of Justice abilities to do their job – which is to catch individuals involved in criminal acts and present the case in court.

Trump has previously made wild  allegations on wiretapping:

@realDonaldTrump (March 4, 2017). “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing fois a und. This is McCarthyism!” (Tweet). Retrieved March 21, 2017 – via Twitter.
@realDonaldTrump (March 4, 2017). “Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!” (Tweet). Retrieved March 21, 2017 – via Twitter.
@realDonaldTrump (March 4, 2017). “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!” (Tweet). Retrieved March 21, 2017 – via Twitter.
@realDonaldTrump (March 4, 2017). “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”” (Tweet). Retrieved March 21, 2017 – via Twitter.

Since this came from the White House,  the FBI investigated the alleged wiretapping as claimed by Donald Trump and found zero evidence to support his accusations as per Wikipedia.

Representative Devin Nunes, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, vowed to investigate the [wiretap]  claim, later stating that the committee had found no evidence for Trump’s statement. At a House Intelligence Committee open hearing on March 20, 2017, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey stated that neither the FBI nor the Department of Justice (DOJ) possessed any information to support Donald Trump’s wiretapping allegations. Nunes stated on March 23 that the Trump administration’s communications might have been legally monitored during the transition period as part of an “incidental collection”.[1]

In a September 1, 2017 court filing, the DOJ declared that “both the FBI and NSD confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets.”[2][3] Later in the same month, CNN reported that the FBI wiretapped Paul Manafort in 2016–17, either during or after his tenure with the Trump campaign. Some commentators cited this report as vindication for Trump’s claims, while others noted that it did not confirm the accuracy of Trump’s original tweets, and that it is still unknown whether any surveillance of Manafort took place at Trump Tower.[4][5][6]

 

Washington, D.C.
FBI National Press Office
(202) 324-3691
January 31, 2018
FBI Statement on HPSCI Memo

The FBI takes seriously its obligations to the FISA Court and its compliance with procedures overseen by career professionals in the Department of Justice and the FBI. We are committed to working with the appropriate oversight entities to ensure the continuing integrity of the FISA process.

With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.

=======

House Representative Devin Nunes heads the House Intelligence Committee, investigating the Russian interference with the 2016 election.  While the memo itself is very brief,  documents that it relied on, particularly the application of a search warrant to the FISA for Carter Page were long (some applications go over 100 pages) and are based on many other classified documents.

The appropriate course of action would be not to release either the Republican or Democrat memos to the public.   If there were allegations of misconduct within  the Department of Justice,  this would be handled best by submitting these allegations to the White House and the Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

This is a mishandling of classified materials on US intelligence by an obviously partisan legislative group, and is shameful.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

A Google search on the Nunes memo.    I like this one because it is simply stating the facts.  Adam Schiff  said yesterday that the memo sent to the President had been changed after it was voted on in committee.  Wow.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/30/politics/cordero-nunes-memo/index.html

Trump’s Nasty and Insulting Tweets

Just like the Fakies award, there should be the Nasties awards.  This is the targets (people, places and things) which Trump has insulted on Twitter since becoming elected President.

The New York Times went through all his tweets since being elected.  Trump’s  #1 target is:  Mainstream media.  I came to this conclusion by measuring the column length, which came to roughly 2 full columns for Mainstream Media.  This group is, according to his tweets, “The enemy of the American people.”  Of course, this comes from the #1 Liar of the Year in 2016 and 2017, according to Politifact.com.

Here’s a quick sampling of the mainstream media tweets: “Fake reporting, dishonest, FAKE NEWS, very corrupt, talks about anything negative or that can be turned into the negative.”   While dishonest and corrupt are widely used,  Trump really likes to the word “fake”  but on occasion uses “phony” and “fabricated.”  There is fake news, off course, by also “fake media” and “phony stories” as in “phony Russian stories.”

As one would expect,  the most numerous  insulting tweets at the news media, as I measured by column length,  are aimed at the New York Times,  Washingon Post, CNN and NBC.    Everything has an adjective associated with it,  and in this case, it is the “failing New York Times” which I’ve already reported is doing just fine.  MSNBC is “unwatchable”  – this is an actual word (highest viewership for cable network, with 1.5 million viewers outranking Fox Network).    ABC news was attacked as “Fiction writers, Fake News, Fake News, Fake News, totally wrong in General E, totally biased, fake news, such dishonesty!”  And amazingly, ABC has  the fewest insulting tweets.

Everyone has a name.   Joe Scarborough of the Morning Joe program, was called “Psycho Joe” by Trump.  Scarborough would seem to be a natural supporter of Trump as he was an elected Republican congressman for 6 years from Florida.  Co-host Mika Brzezinski is “dumb as a rock, was bleeding badly from a face-lift, low I.Q., crazy.”   Really nasty stuff.  I note that she has been a reporter for 28 years, a graduate of Georgetown University and author of 3 books.

There are a lot of obvious targets,  the Democrats, Obama, and Hillary Clinton.   Democrats are the  “obstructionist Dems.”  It is always “Crooked Hillary.”  For Obama, he has a lot of insulting tweets, including “How low has President Obama gone to tap my phone during the very sacred election process.  A NEW LOW” which we know was a completely false accusation.  Trump refers to Obama as “Weak! Terrible! Bad (or sick) guy.”  Obama questioned Trump’s temperament to be President. He had a point.

What might surprise people, are how many times he’s insulted Republicans and those in high positions in his cabinet.  “Sloppy Steve” refers to his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who was Trump’s key policy adviser reporting directly to Trump.  On Bannon, Trump tweeted,  “Sloppy Steve cried when he got fired, begged for his job. Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone,  Sloppy Steve leaker.”   Trump really boiled over after Michael Wolfe’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House was published. “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Mr. Trump said. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

Other Republicans subject to insulting tweets were Bob Corker, Mitch McConnell,  Rand Paul, Lisa Murkowski (Rep Senator from Alaska)  and John McCain.   Within the Executive Branch, insultees include AG Jeff Sessions,  Rob Rosenstein  and Andrew McCabe,  Deputy Director of the FBI.   He has really nasty tweets on fired FBI Director James Comey.

A very recent tweet target is Michael Wolff who wrote a critical book on the time period immediately following the election to now, and is now #1 on Amazon’s best seller list, likely helped by Trump’s tweet, “mentally deranged author, knowingly writes false information.”

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

The Churchill Movie “Darkest Hour”

The film “Darkest Hour” is enjoyable and well crafted.   It has been nominated for 6 Academy Awards including best picture and best actor.   It has already won many awards (see link at end).

The film bothers me, but perhaps my problem is with the genre of “docudrama” and the blurring of reality and fiction.  It has been called historical fiction, which is really a mishmash of what happened many years ago, and what film makers conveniently invented.   The life of Winston Churchill has been so well documented, that what did not happen is very clear to historians, but not the general audience.   I think a bit of embellishment of characters is fine,  but there should be limits.    The movie, I believe, just went too far in the fiction department.

The subway (or “Underground”) ride is total fiction.  I won’t go into all the details, but for those who are interested, I’ve included a good article from Slate, as written by a professor of history.  The fictional Churchill was conflicted on whether to negotiate with Hitler and needs to ride the subway to connect with the countrymen and their views.  In this  one short episode, the producers  severely mischaracterized both Churchill and the mood of the English commoner at the time (see Slate article).

To spice up the movie version of history,  Lord Halifax and Neville Chamberlain are conspiring to end Churchill reign by a vote of no confidence.    Never happened, and the whole conspiracy stuff is a great example of crossing the line.

The Academy Awards occur on March 4, 2018.  Despite my protests, the film may very well win the Academy Awards.  It might not be that bad, as it will stimulate interest in the life of Churchill.

Links:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2017/12/08/what_s_fact_and_what_s_fiction_in_darkest_hour.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darkest_Hour_(film)

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

Flu Vaccinations

Two of my friends got the flu.  I got my flu shot about two weeks ago.  The flu season is just about over with, but I feel better getting the shot.  I plan to do the same this year, but to get it in September, so I’m covered for the whole season.   I started to read up on the flu, after I got the shot.  The flu virus mutates from season to season, so scientists have to predict in advance what strain of virus will be present about six months ahead.   There’s a double dose vaccination which is recommended for seniors (age 65 and over).   I’ll probably go for this.

In February 2017,  scientists at the Center for Disease Control, made an educated guess as to the particular strain would be around in the fall.    They chose the right strain (most prevalent strain), but in the production of the virus, there were mutations, making the vaccinations less effective.  This explains why my friend got the flu, even though she had been vaccinated.  It still lowered her chances of getting the flu, but it’s not perfect.  The CDC and many other scientists at research centers are working to correct this production problem.

Although not perfect, people are always better off getting the shot.  A popular misconception is that the vaccine might give you the flu.  This likely comes from cases where people have been vaccinated and then soon after,  got flu symptoms.  It takes about 2 weeks before the vaccination is effective.  The vaccination does not contain any live virus.  It has antigens, which stimulate the creation of antibodies in the body to fight off the flu virus.  See CDC link at the bottom of the page.

I got my shot at a CVS Pharmacy, without any appointment.   They were quick and professional.  I had no side effects.  Insurance paid for everything. More time was spent filling out the paperwork than getting the shot.

I wanted to get the flu shot, because as I get older, I have a real hard time getting over a cold.  I figured trying to shake the flu would be 10 times harder.   The flu makes you terribly weak, and if you have someone taking care of you, you put them in danger of getting the flu.    Some people go to their doctors to get medications for the flu.  The stuff they sell without a prescription work against bacterial infections not the virus itself.

The only thing I regret is not getting it done earlier.

The best info comes from the CDC.   See the following link:

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm

Stay tuned,

Dave

Fact Checkers are needed more than ever

Donald Trump is exactly right when he says there is a lot of “fake news” out there.   I prefer to use the term, incorrect information or misleading statements, so I don’t make any claims that the sources are fabricating stories.    This is completely different from honest mistakes, which seems to be what the 10 of the 11 fakies award, handed out by Donald Trump, about a week ago.  Trump is the last person to be handing out the fakies, as he is most deserving of one.

Fact checkers don’t go after mistakes.  If Trump tweets something in the morning, and later in the day, he corrects himself, it’s not worth evaluating the original tweet.  It is the establishment of a collection of misleading information through repetition in various forums, particularly in non-critical settings, without any acknowledgement of facts to the contrary,  that is  most dangerous.    It also takes an audience that is willing to accept convenient misleading and typically oversimplified information over the truth.   I think John Kennedy had it right, when he said at the Yale commencement speech  of 1962,

“The greatest enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.  Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebearers.  We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretation.  We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

Trump has created many collections of myths and if it were not for the fact checking websites, we might never know about them.   PolitiFact’s 2017 Lie of the Year award is given to Donald Trump, for claiming Russian election interference is a “made-up story.”  According to the Washington Post Fact Checker, Trump also made !many misleading claims about the investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election, claiming 44 times a variation of the statement that it was a hoax perpetuated by Democrats.

According to the Washington Post Fact Checkers, “One year after taking the oath of office, President Trump has made 2,140 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that an alyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. That’s an average of nearly 5.9 claims a day.”  Pretty mind blowing!

Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as its word of the year and defined it as the state of affairs when “objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

I guess a post-truth society would be one where the truth is smothered by an overload of myths from various sources.   If this is where we stand, I guess that’s about  it for democracy.   I hope not.  The post-truth marketers have a lot of money on their side.

No true journalist works for a strictly social media company.  They work for news organizations.  Subscribers to the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, etc pay good money to get reliable information.  Obtaining the truth   takes some time and effort.

I like the following sites for fact checking.

Politifact.com

Snopes.com 

Washington Post – Fact Checkers

Factcheck.org

I subscribe to the digital Washington Post access now just $100 per year, which I consider to be a real bargain.  I think the Washington Post more recent discussion of the “themed myths” such as the Russian interference witch hunt,  the Obastmacare collapse,  or economic achievements which Trump has falsely taken credit for, when they really occurred or were in progress during Obama’s term.

Washington Post made a great summary of the misleading or false statements made during 2017.    They count

As I was compiling this fact checker list,  I did a general Google search and uncovered an organization helping to keep the fact checkers honest and open through full disclosure and a vetting process.  The organization is called  Poynter Institute (poynter.org).   It was amazing how many websites are involved in fact checking throughout the world.  All of the above sites are listed by Poynter Institute as passing their vetting process.  In addition, the weekly standard fact checker (www.weeklystandard.com) and the AP fact checker (https://apnews.com/tag/APFactCheck) passed the vetting process.   There are others on their list, with most of them based outside the US.

Stay tuned,

Dave

PS.  Just as I was about to hit that “Publish Icon”  Trump declared that Mexico was the most dangerous country in the world.  Politifact considers this mostly false, but  Mexico leads the world in the number of journalists murdered.  See link below:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2018/jan/24/donald-trump/mexico-isnt-deadliest-country-world-trump-said/

 

 

 

 

 

Trump’s Popularity

Since the start of his presidency, Trump has gotten fairly low approval ratings from Gallup Poll, generally between 33 to 45% approval ratings.  But this isn’t the worst ratings by far.   Harry Truman (22%) and George W. Bush (25%) still hold the record in lowest  approval ratings during their time in office.

There is a tendency to relate Trump’s popularity to the news of the day, and I think this is unwarranted from survey data.  Basically,  the distinguishing feature of Trump’s approval rating has been how little reaction there has been to any news, positive or negative.   The graph below comes from an excellent website, fivethirtyeight.com which combines polls from various organizations.   I also examined the Gallup poll on approval ratings which has very similar results.

I consider two periods,  a declining trend from around 45% to 38% approval in the first 6 months of his presidency, and then basically a flat period after that. The intersection of these two trendlines is shown as July 10, 2017  is a bit arbitrary, and one can easily make a case for the flat period beginning weeks before or after this date.

 

Survey results will vary because the polling uses a very small sample (usually less than 2,000) and organizations will conduct surveys in different ways.  In the graph above, the range of results is shown in the lightly colored red and green shading.   The surveys are estimates of how the larger population feels about the president, approve, disapprove or no opinion/unsure.    This larger population can be the entire adult population of the US,  or the registered voters or those residents who are likely to vote in an election.  Which population is targeted can make a difference.

The links below provide good summaries of approval rating polls of President Trump for the different organizations.   One of the more surprising aspects is the variation of  the “unsure” group, from 1% to 12%.    There may  be a number of reasons for this variation.  An automated telephone poll may only allow for people to respond as approve, disapprove or unsure, while a live pollster may attempt to coax out of a respondent, a disapproval or approval rating.

The “Doubling” Story from Breitbart – Fox – Trump

Breitbart news (an online news service, which is known to be highly supportive of Trump’s policies) recently declared, “Donald Trump’s Support Among Blacks Has Doubled Since 2016, Amid Racism Claims”   followed by “Two new polls show President Donald Trump’s rising support among black voters, highlighting his political gains from pushing employers to hire Americans instead of lower-wage migrants.”   This quickly went from Breitbart to Fox News to a White House tweet as follows:

Unemployment for Black Americans is the lowest ever recorded. Trump approval ratings with Black Americans has doubled. Thank you, and it will get even (much) better! @FoxNews

By any measure, approval ratings for Trump are very low among blacks.  The “doubling” result came from using an exit poll, which showed 8% of blacks voted for Trump as compared with a recent poll by Survey Monkey, showed a 17% approval rating from black respondents.  One survey was with actual voters, and the second was done by a different organization (Survey Monkey) picking people at random from the entire population, so the results are not comparable.   Gallup polls showed Trump’s approval rating among blacks was highest just after the election (about 15%) and in the range of 10 to 14% for the next four months.  In the last six months, the approval ratings are in the range of 6 to 11% without a discernible trend.   The average in the last six months (June to December) appears to be about 8%.  When consistent survey results are compared, there is no doubling of approval, as claimed by President Trump, who was quoting Fox News, who was quoting Breitbart.

The last polling data released from Gallup on black Americans a 6% approval for the time period of Dec 25 – 31, 2017.   There’s a lot of apparent random variation in the survey numbers so I wouldn’t read much into this number, as opposed to the six month trend of 8% approval.

We tend to vote by Party and stay loyal to this party

My main point, is that if you look at either polls focused on the population in general, registered voters or specific groups, such as black Americans, there hasn’t been much variation, except what one would expect from survey inaccuracies.

Based on Gallup data,  approximately 80% of Republicans approve of Trump, while only 8% of Democrats approve of Trump.   If the country is split 50:50 between Republicans and Democrats, this would give Trump an approval rating of 44%,  which is what he had at the beginning of his term.  The 2016 popular vote, would certainly support the idea of a nearly even split  between parties.   So, each party must some how win over the undecided vote, while still maintaining their base.

I tend to believe Trump supporters voted consistently for Republicans, while Clinton supporters voted consistently for Democrats.  So,  it’s more of a loyalty to the party’s agenda than the individual running the country,.

Generic Balloting

The polling organizations are attempting to assess the outcome of  the  2018 Congressional Elections by asking respondents,  whether they would be likely to vote for candidates from the Republican or Democratic party.   The question posed to respondents may also be which party they would like to see control Congress.  This is referred to as Generic  Ballot.   So far, polling has shown Democrats lead Republicans (46% to 39%),  but a lot can change before November.   In the last few weeks, Republicans seem to be edging higher, but there is a lot of variation in the data, so it would be very premature to consider this a trend.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_approval_rating

http://news.gallup.com/interactives/185273/r.aspx?g_source=WWWV7HP&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2018/01/14/donald-trump-support-from-blacks-spikes-amid-racism-claims/

https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/congress-generic-ballot-polls/?ex_cid=rrpromo