Browsing the blog archives for October, 2016.


New Revelations on Trump’s Taxes and the Russia Connection

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Bad Hair

The New York Times committed an act of journalism and has published a must-read investigative report on Donald Trump’s taxes. In brief, tax experts say “Whatever loophole existed was not ‘exploited’ here, but stretched beyond any recognition.” It’s worth reading the whole article.

Meanwhile, David Corn writes at Mother Jones about what the FBI might be investigating regarding Trump’s dealings with Russia. A former intelligence officer shared with Corn what he had told the FBI:

Mother Jones has reviewed that report and other memos this former spy wrote. The first memo, based on the former intelligence officer’s conversations with Russian sources, noted, “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance.” It maintained that Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” It claimed that Russian intelligence had “compromised” Trump during his visits to Moscow and could “blackmail him.” It also reported that Russian intelligence had compiled a dossier on Hillary Clinton based on “bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls.”

The former intelligence officer says the response from the FBI was “shock and horror.” The FBI, after receiving the first memo, did not immediately request additional material, according to the former intelligence officer and his American associates. Yet in August, they say, the FBI asked him for all information in his possession and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos—some of which referred to members of Trump’s inner circle. After that point, he continued to share information with the FBI. “It’s quite clear there was or is a pretty substantial inquiry going on,” he says.

“This is something of huge significance, way above party politics,” the former intelligence officer comments. “I think [Trump's] own party should be aware of this stuff as well.”

And Franklin Foer writes at Slate that some computer scientists investigated whether Russian hackers might be hacking the Trump campaign, as they had Clinton’s. What they found was weird. There was regular pinging going on between a bank in Moscow and a Trump server in New York.

The researchers quickly dismissed their initial fear that the logs represented a malware attack. The communication wasn’t the work of bots. The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank. …

…Earlier this month, the group of computer scientists passed the logs to Paul Vixie. In the world of DNS experts, there’s no higher authority. Vixie wrote central strands of the DNS code that makes the internet work. After studying the logs, he concluded, “The parties were communicating in a secretive fashion. The operative word is secretive. This is more akin to what criminal syndicates do if they are putting together a project.” Put differently, the logs suggested that Trump and Alfa had configured something like a digital hotline connecting the two entities, shutting out the rest of the world, and designed to obscure its own existence.

There is some weird-ass stuff going on, people.

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The Damn Emails

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Bad Hair, Hillary Clinton

While everyone is hyperventilating about emails that, apparently, no one has read yet, Kurt Eichenwald reports at Newsweek,

Over the course of decades, Donald Trump’s companies have systematically destroyed or hidden thousands of emails, digital records and paper documents demanded in official proceedings, often in defiance of court orders. These tactics—exposed by a Newsweek review of thousands of pages of court filings, judicial orders and affidavits from an array of court cases—have enraged judges, prosecutors, opposing lawyers and the many ordinary citizens entangled in litigation with Trump. In each instance, Trump and entities he controlled also erected numerous hurdles that made lawsuits drag on for years, forcing courtroom opponents to spend huge sums of money in legal fees as they struggled—sometimes in vain—to obtain records.

Nothing so far has been revealed in Clinton’s emails that warranted indictments. But it sounds as if Trump has been breaking laws for years and getting away with it. Note that the worst of the actions Eichenwald uncovered relate to Trump’s violations of fair housing laws

But let us review what the new Clinton email “revelations” amount to. Executive Summary: Nothing so far.

My understanding is that at the time FBI Director James Comey sent his letter to Congress about the emails on Anthony Weiner’s “device,” he didn’t yet have a warrant that allowed the FBI to read them. All they knew was that State Department emails ended up on Weiner’s “device,” supposedly forwarded by Huma Abedin, although she says she doesn’t know how that happened. We don’t know if any of those emails were sent or received by Hillary Clinton, or if Clinton even knew about the emails on the “device.”

Some news outlets are reporting that the emails were in Abedin’s Yahoo account, which makes me wonder if somehow an account was set up to automatically forward emails and Abedin didn’t realize it. The Clinton campaign is not exactly a tech-savvy crew. But if that’s the case, it’s likely most of these emails are duplicates of ones already known to the FBI.

But there’s more. CNN is reporting that the FBI knew about the emails on the “device” weeks ago. Why did James Comey sit on this information and then release it days before the election? At first it was assumed that Comey sent the letter as soon as he knew about the emails; maybe he wanted to avoid an appearance of being partisan. But if that was the case, it backfired big time.

Josh Marshall writes:

It is quite telling that even at this late stage of the election, when partisan tempers are naturally running at their fiercest, former career DOJ lawyers, former high level DOJ appointees and legal experts on both sides of the aisle are lining up to say this was not only an extremely poor decision but may even have violated the law. (Note here: President George W. Bush’s top ethics lawyer suggests Comey may even have broken the law. Another example is here.) As far as I can see, no one who actually knows what Comey’s legal, professional and ethical responsibilities were in this case can find a basis to defend his actions. Even Republicans who might be inclined to interpret ambiguous facts through a partisan prism don’t seem able to come up with one.

I’ve said a number of times that I do not believe Comey acted out of a desire to interfere with the outcome of the election. I still believe that. But I’m not sure it matters. What seems inescapable is that Comey has made avoiding criticism from Republicans (and leaks by FBI agents that would generate such criticism) his top, almost his sole priority. That being the case, his intent seems all but irrelevant. It amounts to some professional equivalent of reckless disregard, perhaps with a smattering of largely irrelevant naïveté thrown in.

See also FBI Director James Comey screwed up big time.

The presidential race has tightened up since Friday, although Clinton is still heavily favored to win.

Meanwhile Sen. Harry Reid has not only accused Comey of violating the Hatch Act; he says the FBI is sitting on damning information about Trump’s ties to the Russian government:

In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government — a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interests from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.

It should be noted that Brian Ross at ABC News reported last September that Trump does millions of dollars of business with Russians, which wouldn’t have been possible without Putin’s approval.

But I’ll give John Oliver the last word today.

Update: Oops! Here’s another last word. CNBC reports:

FBI Director James Comey argued privately that it was too close to Election Day for the United States government to name Russia as meddling in the U.S. election and ultimately ensured that the FBI’s name was not on the document that the U.S. government put out, a former bureau official tells CNBC.

The official said some government insiders are perplexed as to why Comey would have election timing concerns with the Russian disclosure but not with the Huma Abedin email discovery disclosure he made Friday.

Somebody’s partisanship is showing.

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Boo!

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Bad Hair, holiday

Happy Halloween!

Too scary?

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By Popular Demand

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holiday

Here you go … Halloween costumes for pets.

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Please Make It Stop II

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blogging

The Bundy verdict is especially unfortunate coming just days before the Titanic That Is Trump finally sinks. I fear it’s going to encourage the yahoos to engage in violence.

So the FBI finds old emails on a device that was shared by Anthony Weiner and his soon-to-be-ex wife, Huma Abedin. And this emails went through Hillary Clinton’s private server, to the Clinton email investigation is on again. I’m going to hazard a guess that the emails are all about stuff between Weiner and Abedin and don’t have anything to do with Clinton or the State Department or anything else that’s anybody’s business.

I don’t want to deal with this. Let’s just watch puppies.

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Please, Make It Stop …

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elections, Hillary Clinton

Just encountered a woman on Facebook who was screaming that Hillary Clinton plans to privatize Social Security.

This particular panic came about because of a headline on an opinion piece in Forbes titled “Clinton Might Be Moving Toward Social Security Privatization” that offered absolutely no evidence of anyone on the Clinton team thinking about SS privatization. Do read it; it’s short. Basically, the author says that Social Security is a mess, and how else will Clinton save it but privatization? Seriously; that’s the argument. I am not making this up.

There’s a lot of regressive stuff I fear Clinton might pull, but that is not one of them. Remember all the crazy we went through with Dubya’s privatization plan more than a decade ago? The more Bush talked about his plan to “reform” Social Security, the less popular the idea got. And that was before the 2008 crash.

Having invested so much political capital in this issue, President Bush embarked on the first of what proved to be a long series of tours crammed with events at which he pitched his plan to the people. It soon became apparent that it would be a tough sell. Within weeks, observers noticed that the more the President talked about Social Security, the more support for his plan declined. According to the Gallup organization, public disapproval of President Bush’s handling of Social Security rose by 16 points from 48 to 64 percent–between his State of the Union address and June.

By early summer the initiative was on life support, with congressional Democrats uniformly opposed and Republicans in disarray.After Hurricane Katrina inundated what remained of the President’s support, congressional leaders quietly pulled the plug. By October, even the President had to acknowledge that his effort had failed.

Since then, Democrats have been running on promises to protect Social Security from the evil machinations of privatizing Republicans. Even Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Bush’s plan would put “Americans at risk of losing their retirement savings with the ups and downs of Wall Street.” The 2016 Democratic Party platform plainly states “We will fight every effort to cut, privatize, or weaken Social Security, including attempts to raise the retirement age, diminish benefits by cutting cost-of-living adjustments, or reducing earned benefits.”

In short, this is an issue in which the Dems have absolutely no wiggle room. And I don’t think they’re so stupid they don’t know that. If on the remote chance Clinton were to offer a Bush-style plan as part of some “grand bargain” with a Republican Congress, the political fallout on the entire Democratic Party would be radioactive.

So, while I distrust Clinton in many areas of policy, privatizing Social Security is very low on my list of Ways Hillary Might Sell Us Out.

And the whole point of that Forbes article was planting that headline in the magazine, so that soft-headed progressives and Greenies would link to it and get hysterical, possibly costing Clinton some votes. It was bait.

Yesterday I linked to an article by Josh Marshall that explains what “oversampling” means to a pollster.

Campaigns do extensive, very high quality polling to understand the state of the race and devise strategies for winning. These are not public polls. So they can’t affect media polls and they can’t have anything to do with voter suppression.

Now you may be asking, why would the Democrats skew their own internal polls? Well, they’re not.

The biggest thing here is what the word ‘oversampling’ means. Both public and private pollsters will often over-sample a particular demographic group to get statistically significant data on that group. So let’s stay you have a likely voter poll with 800 respondents. The number of African-Americans in that sample is maybe going to be 100 people, maybe less. 800 people is a decent sample for statistical significance. 100 is not. So if you’re trying to draw conclusions about African-American voters, levels of approval, degree of opposition or support of a candidate, demographic breakdowns, etc. you need to get an ‘over-sample’ to get solid numbers.

Whether it’s public or private pollsters, the ‘over-sample’ is never included in the ‘topline’ number. So if you get 4 times the number of African-American voters as you got in a regular sample, those numbers don’t all go into the mix for the total poll. They’re segmented out. The whole thing basically amounts to zooming in on one group to find out more about them. To do so, to zoom in, you need to ‘over-sample’ their group as what amounts to a break-out portion of the poll.

In other words, campaigns and parties do not “oversample” demographic groups in order to generate fake poll numbers. That hasn’t stopped half the Intertubes from reposting headlines like WIKILEAKS BOMBSHELL EXPOSES Clinton Campaign and Mainstream Media “RIGGED POLLING”. And the people posting this that I’ve seen are lefties. The links are followed by comments such as “Money talks and if they don’t listen, thee is always the threat of imminent ‘suicide’ to keep witnesses silent.”

I mean, I’m as weary of knee-jerk rah-rah yay for our side as anybody. But this perpetual screaming hysteria is absolutely exhausting. I wish there were nothing on the Web but cats and babies.

In other news — the text of the talk I gave Sunday is posted here.

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Updates

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Spent the day playing with my grandson. I’m a little tired to write anything, but until tomorrow be sure to see this article by Josh Marshall that explains how misinformed people are stoking the flames of paranoia.

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Tomorrow in Brooklyn

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Religion

I’ll be speaking at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture tomorrow, October 23. Program starts at 11 am. The topic is a Zen approach to secular ethics. I’ll post the talk eventually.

 

 

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Bye Bye, Bad Hombre

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Bad Hair, Hillary Clinton

This is the part of the debate that’s already getting all the attention.

“I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now, I will look at it at the time,” Trump said during the final presidential debate. “What I’ve seen, what I’ve seen is so bad. First of all, the media is so dishonest and so corrupt. And the pile-on is so amazing.”

He then said the media has “poisoned the minds of voters.”

“If you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote,” he continued, claiming to cite a “Pew report.” “Millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn’t be registered to vote.”

Pressed by moderator Chris Wallace on not accepting “one of the prides of this country… the peaceful transition of power,” Trump said of his acceptance of the election results: “I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense, okay?”

Hillary Clinton called Trump’s response “horrifying.”

There are in fact a lot of dead people who are still on the nation’s registration votes. There often is a time lag between a death and a name’s removal from the registration rolls. However, instances in which dead people actually vote are quite rare.

The Trump surrogates already are trying to walk this back —  he just meant that he would contest the election if there is evidence of fraud, they are saying. But that’s not what he said. Not just the Trump camp but every Republican in national office is going to be pushed to defend or reject what Trump said tonight. A lot of them are likely going to use this as an opportunity to sever ties to what promises to be a loss of epic proportions.

See also Josh Marshall’s postmortem.

 

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Final Debate Live Blog

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Bad Hair, Hillary Clinton

Get the beer and popcorn ready, folks. I’ll be here watching and will add commentary as we go. I don’t promise to be sober, though.

About to start.

Supreme Court!

She’s standing up for LGBT rights, Roe v. Wade; the Supreme Court should stand up for all of us. No on Citizens’ United. Good answer.

The Nortious RGB insulted Trump? I missed that one. Trump wants to uphold the second amendment. Trump’s justices will be pro-life and protect the 2nd Amendment.

Discussion time. Clinton says she supports the 2nd Amendment but also supports reasonable regulations. Comprehensive background checks; close loopholes. These are not in conflict with the 2nd Amendment. The Heller decision did not apply the 2nd Amendment correctly, she said.

Clinton says Trump is heavily supported by the NRA and the gun lobby. Split screen; he is nodding. Yep; he’s supported by the gun lobby.

Abortion!

He promises to put more “pro-life” justices on the court, overturn Roe v. Wade and return the abortion question to the states.

She’s not being squishy; she will defend Roe v. Wade; she will defend Planned Parenthood; she will defend women’s rights.

Government has no business in those decisions, she said.

Trump talks about evil women having babies ripped from their wombs days before birth. Give me a break.

Immigration!

Criminals are pouring across the border! Trump cries. Heroin pours across the borders! That’s the biggest problem in New Hampshire now, apparently. It’s coming from Canada?

We need the wall! We stop the drugs! We need to get all of the drug lords!

Trump is sniffing again. Bad hombres!

Clinton says she doesn’t want to rip families apart or send the deportation presence required to deport all undocumented families.

Trump went to Mexico, choked when talking to the Mexican president.

Trump used undocumented labor to build Trump tower. I want to get undocumented workers into the regular economy so they aren’t undercutting American workers.

Clinton: Will you admit that Wikileaks is coming from Russian hackers? That a foreign government is trying to undercut our election?

Trump says he doesn’t know Putin. Then he says he knows Putin doesn’t respect Clinton. These cyberattacks come from the highest levels of the government?

Trump is losing it already. This is turning into a repeat of the first debate.

Chris Wallace took Clinton’s side on the Soviet hacker thing.

Now he’s denying that he thought it would be swell if other countries got nukes. We already found those videos, dude.

Economy!

When the middle class thrives, America thrives, Clinton says. Biggest jobs program since World War II. Sounds good. Green energy. Create opportunities. Help small business. Raise the minimum wage. People who work full time should not be in poverty. Education system. More technical ed.

She mentioned Bernie! Free college tuition!

Let the wealthy pay their fair share.

Trump is proposing trickle-down economics on steroids.

Trump claims Clinton is proposing a massive tax increase.

He’s going back to the previous segment. NATO; why isn’t NATO paying up?

He’s lost it. He’s not shouting yet, but he’s lost it. Probably he was told to stay on trade deals. Jobs have fled to Mexico.

Cut taxes and corporations will start hiring people. Yeah, like that works.

Chris Wallace says to Trump, even conservative economists don’t think your plan will work.

Clinton: The only one who has ever imported Chinese steel is Trump. He built the Trump Las Vegas hotel with Chinese steel.

On the very day Clinton was in the situation room, watching the raid that took Osama bin Laden, he was hosting Celebrity Apprentice.

Fitness to be President!

Chris Wallace brings up the nine women who accused Trump of assault. Why would these women say this?

Trump says the women’s stories are debunked. Now he’s denying he said things we all heard him say.

Clinton says we want to think about what kind of country we want.

Trump brings up the emails.

Clinton: Every time Donald is pushed on something, he denies responsibility. He never apologizes or accepts responsibilities. Mocking reporter. Mr. and Mrs. Khan. John McCain. This is a pattern of divisiveness. This is a pattern of a dark and dangerous vision. This is not what America is.

Trump: All charges against me are false. I never said what I said.

Chris Wallace: What about Clinton Foundation pay to play?

Clinton: I would love to talk about the Clinton Foundation. Starts to rattle off accomplishments.

Trump is yelling, It’s a criminal enterprise!

Trump says he’s entitled to not pay income taxes.

When will this be over?

Rigged elections? Trump refuses to say he will accept the results of the election!

No, Trump, there are not millions of people registered to vote who are not supposed to be registered.

Now he’s saying that Clinton should not be allowed to run for president.

Clinton: Trump always says something was rigged when he loses. He even said the Emmys were rigged.

Whining! she said whining! He’s talking down our democracy!

Foreign hot spots!

Mosul! Can Trump find Mosul on a map? No, he wasn’t asked that.

Clinton will not support putting American troops in Iraq as an occupying force. She hopes for a successful military operations.

No fly zone, safe havens within Syria. Leverage against Syrian government and Russians.

Trump thinks ISIS already left Mosul. Whatever happened to element of surprise?

Trump seems to think that the only reason Iraq is attacking Mosul is to make Hillary Clinton look good. Iran should write us a thank-you note for this.

Chris Wallace: I want to follow up on another debate. [to Trump] You said things about Aleppo that weren’t true.

Trump: Aleppo is so sad, and awful, and everything bad that happened there is Hillary Clinton’s fault. He really said that.

All over the world, fact checkers have thrown themselves on the floor, weeping. Too much! Too much!

How much longer will this go on?

National debt!

Chris Wallace cites right-leaning social spending cutting groups to talk about taxes and entitlements. Social Security is going bankrupt! Oh noes!

Trump wants to repeal and replace Obamacare to save Obamacare.

Wallace asks Clinton is she’s willing to entertain a grand bargain on Social Security and entitlements.

Final question! Hooray! Why should people vote for you? Clinton has a good boilerplate answer ready.

Trump: Everything is a disaster. I will fix it. All she does is talk.

IT’S OVER!

Okay, the big headline from this debate is that Trump directly refused to say he would respect the result of the election. This is going to eat up most of the post-debate spin.

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