Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Walled City

Taken from the Mount of Olives, this 1858 photo shows Jerusalem, under Ottoman rule since 1517 and still contained within its old walls.


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Your Future 3

To paraphrase Kevin Williamson:

If you want to know who has power in our society look at who gets the endorsements from big companies, the college and foundation scholarships and fellowships, and glorification in the media and then look and see who is marginalized and in fear of losing their jobs.

In addition to his Disney partnership, the ex-quarterback has a multi-million dollar deal with Nike, which allows him to ban sneakers with the Betsy Ross flag, and Netflix just announced it is making a series based on his life story.

Kaepernick lied when he started the taking a knee business and telling us it was only about police brutality and not about the American flag.  This is what he said back in 2016 about kneeling:
"I’m not anti-America, I love America…. I think having these conversations helps everybody have a better understanding of where everybody is coming from.” 
He hates America and all it stands for and it has made him millions on top of the millions he made playing football.  That he supports murdering racist and homophobic thugs like Huey Newton, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, and opposes freedom of speech doesn't seem to bother his sponsors.

And there are so many like him who've created layers of false narratives and torture our language in order to pretend to be oppressed.

It's time to speak the truth.

Monday, July 6, 2020

The Covid Thing

The last time I wrote about Mr Corona was in April.  Today let's talk about the situation here at THC Central. 

Until Memorial Day, Arizona, and particularly Maricopa County (Phoenix metro), where THC HQ is located, had been managing Covid.  Case loads stayed relatively low in the county as had the death toll, which had hit those in Long Term Care (LTC) the hardest, with 71% of all fatalities in that category.

In early May the state began easing restrictions on top of rapidly expanding testing beginning in the latter part of April.  While cases went up somewhat during May, it seemed primarily an artifact of the increased testing as the positive rate declined from 9% in mid-April to 5% in mid-May.  At the end of Memorial Day weekend Maricopa had 8,340 cases.  As of today's report, the county has 64,686 cases though the amount of testing has only doubled during that period.  Moreover, positive test rates are exceeding 20%.

During the first 70 days of the pandemic, Maricopa had 368 deaths, 71% of which were LTC.  In the 40 days since we've had 475 deaths of which 44% were LTC.  Likewise, we had 1,092 covid-related hospitalizations in those 70 days, compared to 1,729 in the 40 days since May 25.  And the figures for the most recent 40 days are an undercount as Maricopa only reports cases confirmed by positive tests and there is a 7-10 day lag period in that reporting.

While the Maricopa case count has gone up 8x, the entire state has seen a 6x rise during this period.

What happened?

I believe a number of factors are in play.  For the state as a whole the disproportionate impact on our Indian communities has continued.  They amount to 4% of our population but 15-18% of cases and fatalities.  More recently, the main border towns, Yuma and Nogales, have seen an explosion in cases as American nationals and dual citizens flee the deteriorating covid situation in Mexico (and Mexico is concerned about covid infected Americans coming into that country).  Some of the impact from this is probably also having an effect in the Phoenix area.

In Maricopa during Memorial Day weekend and for the next couple of weekends we saw bars and restaurants jammed with young people and according to contact tracing by the county health department this was a major source of new cases.  The marches and demonstrations related to George Floyd's death may also have played a factor.

I think weather and air conditioning also probably played a significant role.  In Phoenix our outdoor time of the year is from October into mid-May, after which the heat forces us indoors, whether in bars, other public venues, or our homes.  We know that covid is more transmissible in crowded indoor conditions and air conditioning can move the virus around.

The post-Memorial Day surge has been accompanied by a change in demographics.  Through that weekend 47% of Maricopa cases were below the age of 45.  Since then 67% of cases have been in the 0-44 age bracket.  Those 65+ constituted 22% of cases as of May 25, but only 8% of those reported since.

The other significant demographic change has been in the Hispanic population which is 31% of Maricopa County.  On May 25, Hispanics accounted for 38% of cases and 32% of hospitalization, but since then 52% new cases and 43% of those hospitalized.

The result has been, at first glance, paradoxical.  Because the new cases have shifted to a younger and healthier demographic the hospitalization rate which stood at 13.1% on May 25, has been only 3.2% over the past 40 days, while the fatality rate dropped from 4.4% to 0.9%.  In that respect, while the case numbers are bad, hospitalizations and deaths significantly lag that rate of increase so Arizona does not look like New York in March and April (and if back then New York City had available the amount of tests we have today, it would have resulted in at least the same number of daily new cases as we are seeing for the nation as a whole right now).

Yet average daily hospitalizations and deaths have increased because the absolute number of cases has risen so dramatically and that increase has placed increasing stress on Maricopa hospitals and healthcare providers who are beginning to run short of beds, equipment and PPE.  I expect deaths to increase this week.

If the situation does not begin to turn around in the next 7-10 days we will hit a breaking point and may see deaths escalate further as less individual attention can be given to each patient and then the situation could become closer to New York.  I hope that with the institution of mask ordinances two weeks ago and the closing of bars we will see an improvement.  We need it.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

An Exceedingly Restful Finality

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.
- Calvin Coolidge, July 4, 1926

Lincoln Memorial in 1917 before reflecting pool was built.
Post image

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Anyone Want To Go In With Me On This?

A Old West town in New Zealand and a 900 acre ranch for $7.5 million.  Only a six-hour drive from Auckland on the North Island.  I like it.

relates to An Entire Old West Town Is for Sale. But It’s in New Zealand

The town at Mellonsfolly Ranch recreates an 1860s frontier town in Wyoming.

relates to An Entire Old West Town Is for Sale. But It’s in New Zealand

Just One Of Those Things

A gem from Cole Porter.  Often performed in a light, upbeat style, Frank Sinatra's interpretation is different.  First up is from the 1950s movie Young At Heart, followed by a very slowed down, saloon song version live from The Sands in Vegas in 1961.  You'll notice a suppleness in Sinatra's voice in the 50s that was gone by the 60s.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Problems Or Facts?

“If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact – not to be solved, but to be coped with over time.”  
- Shimon Peres

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Imagine Who Said This

Yes, I know, it's a terrible song.

Over the past month I’ve starting reading a number of people in the space between conservative and Woke, most of them leaning towards the progressive side, who have taken on the insanity of the Woke mob. They’re on Twitter and I’ve listed them below for those who are interested in seeing how the struggle is going – many of them are under heavy attack and a couple of others have already had to restrict access to their accounts. 

I’ve found it useful to read them as they can explain this phenomenon which I have difficulty understanding. To me what's happening with the Woke crowd is like the scene in Alien when the predator bursts out of John Hurt’s chest and proceeds to destroy everything in its path.  The Woke gestated in academia for a couple of decades before emerging and destroying its host.  Or, as someone else wrote, academia was a wet market for the Woke and when it came into contact with social media a decade ago the viral infection began to spread.

James Lindsay, anti-revolutionary. A progressive and probably the most combative person against the Woke. Also operates New Discourses, a website devoted to explaining how Critical Justice Theory operates and how to combat it. My understanding – society is based on power hierarchies, those in control (in this case, white folks) use language to manipulate and control in order to maintain their place at the top of the hierarchy. Western concepts and language around reason, logic, ideas, religion, scientific method, etc are just artificial structures to maintain power and should not be engaged with by those who want to move to the top of the hierarchy. That’s why they won’t argue with you and resort to denouncement and trying to threaten and purge opponents. All that counts is taking the power and then you use your language to manipulate and maintain your position.

Helen Pluckrose. English.

Zaid Jilani. Definitely progressive.

Mike Nayna. Australian who has been doing videos exploring postmodern activism.

Heather Heying, who along with her husband Bret Weinstein, were Sanders supporters purged from Evergreen State College in 2017 for objecting to racial essentialism and believing in biology. She has some excellent threads explaining how woke activism works and the tactics used to gain converts.

Chloe S Valdary, supporter of MLK, anti-racist, anti-Woke.

Inaya Folarin Iman. English. Defender of free speech.

Asra Q Nomani. Journalist and self described “woman’s rights activist” who is fighting battle on behalf of recent immigrant families against the Woke crowd which is trying to take over her magnet school.

Wilfred Reilly. Centrist. Professor. Has written book on Hate Crime hoaxes.

Andrew Sullivan. Yes, that guy. The one who was a conservative once, then became obsessed with Sarah Palin.  Still hates Trump and is 100% against the Woke crowd. Writes column for New York Magazine which banned him from writing about the riots.

Bari Weiss. Somehow still surviving at the NY Times, though many of her colleagues are trying to get her fired.

John McWhorter and Glenn Loury, professors at Columbia and Brown.

Many of these are reporting being swamped with private messages from other liberals/progressives who are scared about the crazies surrounding them but intimidated about speaking openly, worried about being viciously attacked and putting their jobs at risk.

And R.I.P., Slate Star Codex.  A long-time and well-respected blog operated by Scott Alexander (not his real name).  Alexander is neither conservative, nor Woke, preferring to describe himself as a rationalist.  Very data driven and analytical.  Willing to go where the evidence leads and change his mind on occasion.  Even more importantly, he attracted readers from across the political spectrum and ran a comments section that, to my knowledge, was the only non-paywalled comments section on the internet that had not descended into a sewer, due to his careful moderation and tone.

Alexander is a practicing psychiatrist in California and apparently works for a medical center or hospital so has not used his real name.  The New York Times decided to write a story on him and informed Scott it was going to divulge his real identity.  I believe this was because a blog like his, which at times has taken on Woke orthodoxy and has a diverse readership is not longer permitted in the world the Times envisions where everyone must take sides.  Worried that the Times article would unleash an onslaught of Woke folks and endanger his job and career, Scott has deleted SSC from the internet.  You can read his explanation here.  He's much more polite about it than I would be, but that's how he rolls and why SSC had carved out such a unique niche on the internet.  A vibrant and tolerant internet community deliberately destroyed by the New York Times.

We are in dangerous times.  The most dangerous since the Civil War.

As I've been saying for a while, Woke progressives and White nationalists are just two sides of the same coin.  They both believe in racial essentialism as the determining factor in society, they just have different views as to who should be on top.  You cannot run a society on their terms without massive repression.

UPDATE:  Today the California legislature voted to strike these words from the state constitution:
"The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin."
The proposal will be on the state ballot this November.  We are sliding back into an age we thought we had left behind.

FURTHER UPDATE:  Earlier this week a 3rd year student at UCal-Berkeley, Seth Smith. was murdered.  He was at a bus stop when someone walked up and shot him in the back of the head.  Seth was white.

The University Chancellor issued a statement.  After briefly expressing her sympathy for Smith and his family she went on to say:
We realize this is a difficult time for those of you who knew Seth. It is important to know that individuals may express their grief differently and we need to respect the different ways people react and support each other in the days and weeks ahead. Many of you may have had a close relationship with Seth and are feeling a sense of loss and disbelief. Others, like many of us, are experiencing stress, grief and anxiety related to the coronavirus pandemic and the recent murders of George Floyd, Riah Milton, and other Black Americans.
First of all, for those of you who don't know, Riah Milton was a transgender black killed by black males.  As to what coronavirus, George Floyd and others have to do with Seth Smith's murder I have no idea.  I suspect what is going on is the Berkeley administration suspects Smith's killer was black and are trying to "contextualize" the murder if that proves to be true.  Symbols are more important than a dead white guy. The Chancellor is a horrible human being.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Real Me

I don't know about you, but I could use a pick me up right now, something with high energy.  I think this is the cure.  The Real Me from The Who, featuring the greatest bass work in rock history by John Entwhistle, so amazing it overshadows one of Roger Daltrey's finest vocals, the drumming of Keith Moon and the crash chords of Pete Townshend.  Like many of the top rock classics the lyrics are actually quite dark but we'll ignore those for now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020


Barrel Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300 is 70 million light years from Earth.  Photo by Hubble Space Telescope from Astronomy Picture of the Day.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
the highest resolution version available.

Which Way?

If liberal democracy in America survives the current crisis, a crisis driven by hysteria, false narratives, historical illiteracy, envy, hatred, the purging of anyone with incorrect opinions, the toppling of statutes, and the erasure of history, we will look back on this period, as we do now on the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, with bewilderment, disdain, and condemnation, while many of those caught up in the frenzy will feel ashamed for having been so easily manipulated by those seeking despotic power over their fellow human beings.

If we should not survive the crisis this will be our fate:

Fascism In Action

[Sarcasm alert]

Monday, June 15, 2020

Good Words

When Louis Armstrong was on the road, which was most of the time, he carried with him a taping system that was high-tech for its era.  It included recordings of his favorite music as well as tapes he made himself while touring.  The process occupied much of his time when he was not playing.

The Louis Armstrong Museum in the Corona neighborhood of Queens, NY (which is well worth a visit) has been releasing portions of those tapes.  Most recently is this recording of Armstrong reciting Abraham Lincoln's address at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863.  We don't know what prompted him to make the recording in 1958 but it is fitting for a man who escaped from poverty and abandonment in New Orleans early in the 20th century to become one of the most famous and well-liked people in America.

The electic nature of Armstrong's tapes is demonstrated by the other items on this one, described by the Museum as:
  . . chock full of music–Count Basie’s April in Paris, Coleman Hawkins’s The Hawk in Paris, Berklee College’s Jazz in the Classroom, an Alex Welsh broadcast, a Willis Conover Voice of America broadcast on Armstrong, a Bob Hope-Bing Crosby single, Patti Russo and more–but it’s the Lincoln speech, delivered between the end of the Basie album and Hawkins’s “Chiens Perdus Sans Collier (The Little Lost Dog),” that’s most memorable portion of the tape.
This link will take you to the recording.  It's worth 2 1/2 minutes of your time.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Last Appearance

Yesterday was the 72nd anniversary of Babe Ruth's last appearance at Yankee Stadium.  Dying of throat cancer, a shrunken version of his former self, Babe walked on to the field to the cheers of a massive crowd for the last time.  As the frail Babe stood there, using the bat for support, what must he have been thinking?

His words to the crowd:
"Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. You know how bad my voice sounds. Well, it feels just as bad. You know, this baseball game of ours comes up from the youth. That means the boys. And after you're a boy and grow up to know how to play ball, then you come to the boys you see representing themselves today in your national pastime. The only real game I think in the world is baseball. As a rule, some people think that if you give them a football or a baseball or something like that they naturally become athletes right away. But you can't do that in baseball. You've got to start from way down at the bottom, when you're 6 or 7 years of age. You can't wait until you are 15 or 16. You gotta let it grow up with you. And if you are successful, and you try hard enough, you're bound to come out on top just like these boys have come to top now. There have been so many lovely things said about me and I'm glad I got the opportunity to thank everybody. Thank you."
The Babe died on August 16.  His casket was taken to Yankee Stadium where more than 75,000 fans came to pay their respects.

He's Right

From Arnold Kling at askblog.
I appreciate living in a society where any widespread movement by colleges or corporations to demonstrate “commitment to Christianity” or to mandate “Jesus training” would be vomited out of the system. That’s what I think should happen to “commitment to inclusion” and “diversity training.”
As a reminder, "commitment to inclusion" actually means "commitment to exclusion" while "diversity training" means training everyone to think the same way in order to achieve conformity with the views of the new privileged class. We are dealing with a cult - it's like Jonestown X 1000.  Discussion is forbidden in a cult, unquestioning obediance required.  Once you kneel to these people they will never let you stand on your own two feet again. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Peaches En Regalia

Brilliant instrumental from Frank Zappa.  On the 1969 album Hot Rats

Friday, June 12, 2020

53 Transcripts: The Trump Tower Meeting

The Trump Tower meeting took place on June 9, 2016 but did not come to public attention until a report by the New York Times on July 8, 2017, a report that added a lot more fuel to the Russia collusion fire, abetted by the clumsy handling of the news by the Trumps, father and son.

Donald Trump Jr's agreeing to that meeting was the height of stupidity and recklessness.  The way to handle a sensitive offer of dirt regarding your opponent is to use cut-outs as the Clinton campaign did when it used FusionGPS, a firm working for a Putin-associated oligarch, to obtain information from Russian intelligence sources damaging to Donald Trump.

There were eight participants in the meeting, of whom six were interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee.  In addition, everyone associated with the Trump campaign who testified was asked about the Trump Tower meeting (it turned out none of them were aware at the time it had occurred).  It was also fascinating to see how many of the Russian participants had direct or indirect connections with Hillary Clinton or the Obama administration.

The participants (those interviewed in boldface):

Donald Trump Jr
Jared Kushner
Paul Manafort
Natalia Veselnitskaya (Russian lawyer and lobbyist, and hereafter referred to as V)
Ike Kaveladze (US based VP for real estate development company run by Russian Aras Agalarov)
Rinat Akhmetshin (Russian-American lobbyist)
Anatoli Samachornov (interpreter)
Rob Goldstone (music promoter, manager of Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, son of Aras)

My assessment is the basic story as laid out by the six witnesses is generally accurate because (1) the testimony is consistent though not so identical in the details as to raise suspicions, (2) Anatoli Samachornov is very credible (for reasons explained below), and (3) if the slightest discrepancy (real or imagined) had been found in anyone's testimony by the Mueller gang they would have been indicted for false statements as we saw with Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, and George Papadopolous.  My takeaway - the meeting was a clown show from start to finish.

The origins of the meeting are in an early June 2016 phone call from Emin Agalarov to his manager Rob Goldstone, a dual US/UK citizen who Donald Trump Jr described in his testimony as a "flamboyant music promoter" (p.27).  He'd met Donald Sr in 2013 and been involved with negotiations for the Trump-sponsored Miss Universe Moscow later that year.  Goldstone met Donald Jr the following year when he had a client appearing on Celebrity Apprentice (this is all so weird).

Not long before Agalarov called, Rob had worked with him on a music video featuring a song with visuals celebrating Hillary Clinton's success in beating Sanders and becoming the Democratic nominee.  Unfortunately, the blowback from Emin's Russian fans was so bad they had to remove the video from social media.  This time Emin was calling to convey a request from his father, a billionaire Russian real estate developer who built the largest indoor shopping center in Moscow as well as the Trade Expo, hosted the Trump owned Miss Universe 2013 Contest in Moscow, received the Russian Order of Honor from Putin the same year, and is a partner with Robert DeNiro in two Moscow restaurants, to arrange a meeting between V and the Trumps.  In 2017, Agaralov joined the list of sanctioned Russian oligarchs under a Congressional act signed into law by President Trump.  Goldstone summarized the information:

I wonder if you could contact the Trumps.  My father just had a meeting with a Russian attorney in his office, who has some potentially damaging information about Russian funding to the Democrats and Hillary. (p.33)
Based on his testimony and a little research on Goldstone, this is a guy who knows nothing about politics (and cares less) but will do anything to promote his client and since the client asked him to arrange a meeting he was now on a mission. Think of the Matthew McConaughey agent character in Tropic Thunder willing to go to any length to get his client his Tivo, even if it means a dangerous trip into the jungle, and you've captured the essence of Goldstone.

Goldstone told the committee he had only one shot at getting the attention of Don Jr so sent him an email promising "some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary" (p.37), describing it as "a schmooze tactic" and was very pleased when he got back a response indicating interest and willingness to meet (p.41) so there is no doubt Don Jr agreed to the meeting because of the promise of damaging information regarding Hillary.  Goldstone never met V until he met her and the others in the Trump Tower lobby to take them to the meeting.

Trey Gowdy asked how he could reconcile his putting together a video celebrating Hillary Clinton with the email promising incriminating information on the same person.  Goldstone's response:
I'm not in the slightest bit political . . . my job is to promote Emin the best way I could.  And if I had been able to convince the DNC to use this song, it would have been amazing for him.  And if ultimately my sole client asked me to send an email that's important to him and/or his father . . . well, again, I'll do that. (p.47)
V was a Russian lawyer who spoke no English.  She was a litigator (the question of whether, or to what extent, she was connected to the Russian government remains unclear) who'd been working for Denis Katys, owner of Prevezon Holdings on litigation regarding the U.S. government's actions in seizing his properties, on investigating Bill Browder, proponent of the Magnitsky Act, and to lobby to overturn or modify the Act. The Magnitsky Act is named after a Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian accountant who worked for Bill Browder on his Russian business.  Magnitsky was arrested and allegedly beaten to death in a Russian prison, prompting the U.S. Congress to pass the Act which included sanctions on a number of Kremlin-linked oligarchs, including Katys, who also hired FusionGPS to lobby against the Act.  As a result, V and Glenn Simpson worked closely together.  In fact, V and Simpson had lunch together the day before the Trump Tower meeting and met again the day following the meeting.

Samachornov described V as a one issue person who was driven to meet any person who might help her client.  My guess is that Agaralov's call to Goldstone was prompted by Katys contacting him.  Ironically, the sequence undermines a theory the Democrats on the committee tried to promote, that Agaralov was closely linked to the Trumps.  If that had been true, why would he have needed to go through Rob Goldstone to set up the meeting?

Ike Kaveladze came to the U.S. in 1991 and is a dual U.S./Russia citizen, working for Agalarov who asked him to attend the meeting to translate for Veselnitskaya who spoke no English.  Prior to the meeting, V told him it was to be primarily about the Magnitsky Act but also mentioned she had some information damaging to the Clinton campaign.  It was only when he met Veselnitskaya for lunch before going over to Trump Tower for the meeting that he found out she had hired Samochornov to interpret so although he accompanied V to the meeting he felt pretty useless.

Anatoli Samochornov is considered the best Russian-English interpreter in the New York area, coming to the U.S. in 1991 and is a U.S. (not dual) citizen.  Working as a contract interpreter for the State Department since 1997 he has, among other assignments, interpreted at President Obama's UN summit on refugees.  He was hired in October 2015 as an interpreter by a Foundation funded by Denis Katys, who had also retained V, Akhmetshin, and Glenn Simpson.  His initial meeting with them was at the New York offices of the international law firm of Baker & Hostetler regarding Prevezon's ongoing litigation.  Samochornov has no record of contact with any Russian government officials.  Having spent time with V over the prior months he was asked about her views of U.S. politics and replied, "I would not characterize her as partisan towards U.S. politics in one particular way or another", and had never heard her speak about the Trump family until a few days before the meeting when she asked him to attend and interpret.  He also testified he had no idea what the meeting was about until he was in it.  Of all the participants in the meeting Samochornov comes across as the most grounded, sophisticated, and direct in his testimony.  In fact, we recently learned that four days after the story broke in 2017 he was interviewed by the Mueller gang and when he confirmed Donald Jr's story they lost all further interest in the matter.

The last member of the crew was Rinat Akhmetshin, another U.S./Russia dual citizen who arrived in the early 1990s.  He's actively worked as a lobbyist, primarily for the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and, at the time, was also working with a Russian foundation aiming to restart Russian adoptions by Americans, a foundation funded by Denis Katys of Prevezon, which Putin had terminated in retaliation for passage of the Magnitsky Act.  Rinat was very blunt with the committee, testifying that while he has done no work for Putin or his associates, he will not work for any Russian directly opposing the regime because it is too dangerous (press reports often claim Akhmetshin was part of Russian intelligence, but he explained his only link was military service in the late 1980s as a guard at intelligence facilities and no information contradicting him has surfaced).  He testified the FBI routinely debriefed him after meetings with Russian officials.  Akhmetshin had met V in the course of his work for the foundation.

After learning he was in New York to see a show that evening, V invited Akhmetshin to lunch which is when he learned about the Trump Tower meeting which V invited him to join. (1)  Rinat was unprepared, telling the committee he was wearing a t-shirt and jeans but ended up accompanying them anyway.  Akhmetshin saw the briefing paper V had prepared for the meeting and realized that while it contained a brief reference to the Ziff Brothers hedge fund issue it was primarily about the Magnitsky Act and didn't realize there was any connection with Clinton.  Samachornov described the conversation at lunch as "the Magnitsky law, Mr. Browder, the Prevezon case", and told the committee the subject of U.S. politics, the election, and the Trumps never came up.

Since Goldstone was the only one who'd been to Trump Tower he walked them over to the building, checked them through security in the lobby and went up the elevator with the group.  His intent had been to introduce them to Don Jr and then leave but Don Jr asked him to stay.

On the Trump side, Jared testified he was not told anything about "damaging information", wasn't sure what the meeting was about and attended as a courtesy to Donald Jr.

Once introductions were made, V launched into her presentation, the first part of which was a convoluted story about an American hedge fund, operated by the Ziff Brothers, committing tax fraud in US and Russia with the aid of Browder and funneling contributions to the Democratic National Committee. (2) As she went on, Kaveladze testified that "Mr Kushner was very frustrated.  He looked very frustrated" (p.69), finally interrupting and, according to Goldstone, asking
"Could you just come to a point, or is there a point to this?" (p.87).  Akhmetshin testified that Don Jr also quickly lost interest.

At that point, Akhmetshin, sensing disaster, jumped in and gave an impromptu talk about the Magnitsky Act and the prohibition on adoptions from Russia, which tested the patience of Trump Jr and Kushner even more (according to all those who testified, throughout the entire meeting Paul Manafort was doing stuff on his cellphone and never paid the least attention, except for one moment (3))  Kushner testified he texted his admin to call and get him out of the meeting and the other participants agreed he left before it ended.  The meeting finally ground to a halt after 20 minutes.   Akhmetshin told the committee, "I thought the whole meeting was ridiculous" (p.147)  Goldstone stated he was embarrassed and apologized to Don Jr as they were leaving.

Don Jr repeatedly stated he had not told his father about the meeting either before or after it happened, nor had he mentioned its purpose to Manafort or Kushner.  He said his reason for not doing so beforehand was he wanted to vet the information promised by Goldstone before informing Trump Sr.  My take is that Don Jr was trying to stake out a bigger role for himself in the campaign and it would have been quite a big deal for him to have more scandalous Clinton information handed to him.  His explanation for why he didn't tell Dad after the meeting, also helps explain his hesitation before:
"I believe I would remember a conversation like that with my father, and I also would not bring my father something that I believe to be a waste of time.  I've learned that through many years of working with him the hard way." (p.126)
Based on what I already knew about Trump before 2016, having observed him since, and read the  testimony of how he operated his business and campaign by those who know him, Don Jr's explanation rings true with me.  The Trump Tower meeting was a disaster; nothing came of it.  Why would he tell his father and look like a fool?

There is also no documentary evidence to the contrary.  I've haven't noted this before but all of those associated with the Trump Org or Campaign also had their records subpoenaed, including emails, by the committee and were questioned intensively by the members.  And this crowd was too naive to know not to put some things in writing.

Under questioning Ike Kaveladze stated he told his wife and 13-year old daughter about the meeting before it occurred, telling them V had some information damaging to Hillary Clinton, which upset his daughter who supported Clinton.  After he left the meeting he called his daughter to tell her nothing damaging to Hillary happened.

I learned from his testimony that Rinat Akhmetshin also had a Hillary Clinton connection.  His business colleague Edward Lieberman, was married to Evelyn Lieberman, White House assistant to Hillary and later Deputy Chief of Staff to Bill Clinton.  It was Evelyn who spotted what was going on with Monica Lewinsky and moved her to an assignment away from any connection with Bill.  She later became Director of Voice of America.  Akhmetshin had been to the Lieberman's home on several occasions and more than once had met Hillary there.  He also referred to Glenn Simpson of FusionGPS as an "old acquaintance". (p.42)

In questioning of Trump campaign witnesses, Schiff and Swalwell pushed hard to establish that Donald Trump's campaign remark on June 7, two days before the Trump Tower meeting, that the following Monday (June 13) he'd have some new big news about Hillary, showed he knew about the planned meeting in advance.  Both Hope Hicks and Steve Bannon testified the reference was to Clinton Cash, a book published in 2015 by Peter Schweizer, documenting the seedy side of the Clinton Foundation, which had been recently made into a documentary.  The plan was for a event showcasing the film and its first U.S. showing.  However, on the night of June 11-12, Omar Mateen killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida and the event was postponed while the campaign focused on the candidate's response to the murders.

The existing record shows V's intent was to use the potentially damaging information about Hillary as a hook to get the meeting which was, in reality, about lobbying for repeal of the Magnitsky Act.  The preparation and coordination for the Russians attending the meeting was very poor, with V having little idea how to effectively make her case.

There are alternative explanations as to how and why the approach to the Trumps was made.

(1) As described by Samachornov, V was monomanical about the case and may have come up with the idea herself and gone to Katys.

(2) Katys and Agaralov may have seen the damaging information on Clinton as a way to curry favor with the Trumps, either if Don Sr unexpectedly was elected or, if he lost, as way to enhance relationships.  If so, it shows how little understanding they had of American politics.

(3) This was part of a deep convoluted Kremlin plot to do something, I'm just not sure what, given the damaging information was a nothingburger.

(4)  Could it have been Glenn Simpson who planted the idea with V of a meeting with the Trumps?  He had worked closely with her and was tied to the same oligarch whose interests he was advancing.  What they didn't know was Simpson had been hired by the Clinton campaign to investigate Trump's Russian connections and had recently hired, or was about to hire, Christopher Steele.  Unlike the Russians, Simpson was sophisticated enough to understand the implications of a direct meeting between them and the Trump campaign.  Weighing against this theory is it would have been in Simpson's interests to make the meeting public before the election.

In any event, there is no evidence the damaging information was anything beyond the Ziff Brothers (4) allegation and none of the participants had any followup with anyone associated with the Trump campaign.

We'll leave the last word on this debacle to Corey Lewandowski who testified he spoke with President Trump shortly after news of the meeting became public in 2017.  Lewandowski said he told the President, "I thought it was a politically stupid thing to do to have that meeting."  The President responded, according to Lewandowski:
"He acknowledged it was a short, stupid meeting too and probably shouldn't have taken place". (p.87)
 (1) Samachornov tells a different version of how Akmetshin ended up in the meeting.  According to his account, once the meeting with Don Jr was set, V asked him to send a text to Rob Goldstone asking him to pass on her request to Don Jr to:
". . . include our trusted associate and lobbyist, Mr Rinat Akmetshin, who is working to advance these issues with several congressmen." (p.24)
Goldstone texted back:
"I would suggest you bring whoever you need in order to make the meeting successful." (p.28)
The evidence of all those involved would indicate Goldstone never passed on the request to formally add Akmentshin or, for that matter, Kaveladze, to the meeting and it was only Goldstone's presence as someone known to Trump Tower security that got them all up where the Trump crowd seemed surprised at the number of visitors.

Whether Akmetshin really knew in advance about the meeting in part depends on whether his testimony that he showed up at the lunch in t-shirt and jeans is true.  Both sides in this meeting seem to have been rather casual in the lead up to the event.

(2) Samachornov's summary of V's presentation:
". . . she spoke that during the course of her research into the Prevezon case she uncovered financial irregularities by Mr. Browder and also by his client, the Ziff Brothers, who were contributors - and here again, I don't remember - either to the DNC or to Mrs. Clinton's campaign." (p.48) 
(3)  According to Samachornov, when V mentioned contributions from the Ziff Brothers, Manafort looked up from his phone and:
". . . he said something along the lines that the fact that there is a political contribution is not significant, that people contribute to both parties all the time." (p.49)
(4)  Daniel, Dirk and Robert Ziff are the sons of William Ziff a prominent magazine publisher.  They started Ziff Brothers Investments in 1994.  Two of them live in Manhattan and the other in Palm Beach.  My guess is Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump know them.

Your Future II

"How to justify shaming and even coercion to prevent people from saying things they believe? 'Words are violence'.  How to justify shaming and even coercion to force people to say things they don't believe?  'Silence is violence'."

Robert P George

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Those We Honor

"A society that does not honor deeply flawed people will only be able to honor those they do not actually know."

Bill James

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Trojan Baseball

A Pictorial Chronology of Baseball in the 19th Century, Part 8 ...

It seems surprising now but in the early years of organized professional baseball leagues, the upstate New York city of Troy hosted two clubs - in 1871 the Troy Haymakers were one of the founding members of the first professional league, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players and from 1879 through 1882 the Troy Trojans were part of the National League, founded in 1876.

In the late 19th century Troy was one of the wealthiest cities in the United States with a booming economy based on manufacturing steel, iron, and engineered mechanical and scientific equipment.  In 1880 its population of 56,747 was greater than its estimated population in 2019 (49,514).  A few miles south lay the state capital Albany with a population of 90,758 in 1880 but not as prosperous as booming Troy.

In 1871 when the Haymakers joined the National Association they were already a well-established club, having been founded in 1860 as the Union Baseball Club Lansingborough, a neighboring small town.  In 1869 when professional teams were first allowed to participate in the then-amateur National Association, the Haymakers joined in and were one of the seven founding teams for the professional National Association in its inaugural 1871 season.

That first season the Haymakers went 13-15 finishing sixth in the nine team league which included two other clubs from smaller cities, the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Kekiongas and the Rockford (Ill) Forest Citys.  Troy's star player and manager was slugger Lip Pike, the first great Jewish ballplayer, who led the team in batting (.377) and the league with 4 home runs.

(Lip Pike)
Lip Pike Baseball.jpg
By the start of the 1872 season, Lip had moved on to join the Baltimore team but the Haymakers were more successful, winning 60% of their games.  Unfortunately, the team dropped out of the league halfway through the season "on account of an empty treasury".  That was not unusual in those days - only 4 of the 11 teams in the league played the full 54 game schedule.

By the next time Troy fielded a professional team, the National League had expanded its schedule to 75-84 games and there was a great deal more stability among the teams.  That year the other clubs were based in Boston, Providence, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Syracuse.  The presence of three teams in upstate New York made sense; the area was a baseball hotbed and the upstate cities of Troy, Albany, Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo were all booming, in contrast to their condition today.

The debut 1879 club finished last with a 19-56 record, marred by a mid-season slump when it lost 31 of 34 games.  The following year the team marked its best season, its 41-42 record good for 4th place.  This time around a mid-season spurt winning 17 of 23 games helped.  Home games in 1879 were played at the Putnam Grounds, which is today a park.

The 1880 and 1881 home field was the former Haymakers Grounds in Troy while the final season home games were played on the other side of the Hudson River at grounds in Watervliet.

The Trojans had a discouraging start to the 1881 campaign losing their first 7 contests and played .500 ball the rest of the way, finishing 5th.  There were two franchise shifts during the 1880-81 seasons, the Syracuse team moving to Worcester and Cincinnati migrating to Detroit.

By 1882 the National League had its sights set on expanding into bigger cities and during the season notified Troy and Worcester they would not have franchises in the 1883 season when the league would place new teams in New York and Philadelphia.  The team was playing .500 ball at the time with a 30-31 record and then lost 17 of its next 18.  The Trojans played their final 19 games on the road and recovered at the end winning four straight but still ending up in 7th place with a 35-48 record.  The final three contests were against Worcester which was also being evicted from the league.  It must have been a discouraging end to the season.  It certainly was for the Worcester fans - only 25 attended the final game and only 6(!) were in the stands the day before.

Though the four seasons in Troy were not marked with great success quite a number of well-known players spent time with the team, including five future Hall of Fame members.

The player-manager during the years in Troy was Bob Ferguson, whose nickname, "Death to Flying Things", reflected his defensive skills.  Though not a Hall of Famer, Ferguson was well-respected, managed for many years after his stint in Troy and later became a famous umpire.

(Bob Ferguson)

That year also saw the debut of a 21-year old rookie, Dan Brouthers, who played two seasons with the Trojans.  Dan later won 5 batting titles and is in the Hall.  The 1880 team saw the debut of four future Hall of Fame members, pitchers Tim Keefe and Mickey Welch, outfielder Roger Connor, and Buck Ewing, considered the greatest catcher of the 19th century.

In 1883, Welch, Connor and Ewing joined the Gothams (later the Giants) for the first season of the New York team.  After going 69-64 in his three seasons with the Trojans, Welch went 216-123 in the next seven for the New York squad.  Connor became one of the greatest 19th century sluggers and held the career home run record until Babe Ruth surpassed him in 1920.

Tim Keefe first joined the New York club of the fledging American Association and then jumped to the Gothams winning 250 games in the next seven years and racking up 41 triumphs during his three Trojan seasons.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Last Message

Irving Strobing - Sent Final Messages from Corregidor American History Biographies Famous Historical Events World War II
Today is the anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy but instead of writing about that, let's go back to darker days two years earlier.

In early 1942 Japan rampaged across the Pacific and South Asia.  Islands in the central Pacific, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies and Burma had all been occupied, Imperial Army troops had recently landed on New Guinea, and the Imperial Navy fleet ranged as far as the Indian Ocean, raiding Ceylon and bombing cities on the coast of India, and even struck Australia, raiding Darwin on the north coast.

To Japan's surprise the American and Filipino forces in the Philippines posed tough resistance, holding out on the Bataan Peninsula until April 9, when weakened by disease and malnutrition (the average soldier had lost a 1/3 of their body weight) surrender became the only option.  The prisoners then embarked on the horror of the Bataan Death March during which thousands were shot, bayoneted or beheaded by the Japanese before reaching the prison camps where thousands more were to die.

That left the final American and Filipino stronghold - the tiny island of Corregidor, off the coast of Bataan with 13,000 military personnel under the command of General Jonathan Wainwright.  All knew there was no hope of rescue and only a matter of time before the Japanese assault.

On May 3 the Japanese began the artillery bombardment of the island, landing troops two days later.  Wainwright's command post was in the Malinta Tunnel near the center of the island.  As the Japanese attack continued the tunnel also filled with dead, wounded and those seeking a place of refuge from the shelling.  By the next day the situation was hopeless and Wainwright agreed to surrender.

(Malinta Tunnel before Japanese attack)
Photo of American soldiers of the US Army's finance office in ...

In the Malinta Tunnel was radio operator Cpl. Irving Strobing, a 22 year old from Brooklyn who'd enlisted in 1939.  During the last 90 minutes before the capitulation became official, Strobling sent a stream of Morse Code messages that, when transcribed, were over the next few months broadcast and reprinted across America.  The personal nature of them, mixing humor, horror, and emotion, struck a chord with listeners.

Here are some of the messages: 
We are waiting for God only knows what.  How about a chocolate soda?
The jig is up.  Everyone is bawling like a baby.  They are piling dead and wounded in our tunnel.  I'm vomiting.  Arm's weak from pounding key, long hours, no rest, short rations, tired.
Corregidor used to be a nice place.  Haunted now.

Hey, I have 60 pesos you can have for the weekend.
General Wainwright is a right guy and we are willing to go on for him, but shells were dropping all night, faster than hell.  Damage terrific.  Too much for guys to take. 
And then came his final transmission:
My name is Irving Strobing. Get this to my mother, Mrs. Minnie Strobing, 605 Barbey Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. They are to get along OK. Get in touch with them as soon as possible. Message, my love to Pa, Joe, Sue, Mac, Harry, Joy and Paul. Also to all family and friends. God bless 'em all. Hope they be there when I come home. Tell Joe, wherever he is, go give 'em hell for us. My love you all. God bless you and keep you. Love. Sign my name and tell my mother how you heard from me.
There was a pause, then "Stand by," then nothing.

You can listen to a reading of Strobing's transmissions here.

Strobing's final message reached Secretary of War Henry Stimson and arrangements were made to have an Army Colonel personally deliver it to Minnie Strobing. 

After the surrender, Strobing was imprisoned in a Phillipine POW camp.  In November 1942 he was sent to Japan, spending 27 days in the hold of a transport ship (also known as Hell Ships) and then did hard labor, part of a group of prisoners excavating by hand a dry dock, stoking steel mill furnaces and, as he described it, making "little rocks out of big rocks", for the next 2 1/2 years before freedom arrived on September 5, 1945.

(The surrender, emerging from the tunnel)
Surrender of Malinta Tunnel | The World War II Multimedia Database

In this radio interview, Strobing tells of the moment of surrender and of his time as a prisoner.

Returning to the U.S. he met the man who'd received and transcribed his transmissions in Hawaii, Sgt Arnold Lappert.  Lappert, based at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, was responsible for passing messages to and from the Phillipines.  After the fall of Bataan, Corregidor was the sole remaining transmission post in the Philippines and he and Strobing had gotten to know each other, discovering they were both New Yorkers (Lappert was from Manhattan).  When they finally met in 1946 they had chocolate sodas together.

Leaving the Army in 1949, Strobing worked for the Federal Aviation Agency in New York and the Department of Agriculture in New Jersey. After retiring in 1980, he moved to North Carolina and became active in amateur radio clubs.  He died in 1997 at the Veteran's Hospital in Durham, North Carolina.  Arnold Lappert passed in 2007.

I came across this comment on one of the YouTube videos which reflected nicely on Mr Strobing.
I was fortunate enough to meet him when he was a ham radio operator in retirement in North Carolina--he was call sign N4FLW and I was N4NDK (now W1ST). A great and humble man, and my young son Will and I would often stop by his home for a friendly visit. He was always an avid radio operator and always had a significant modeling project underway across a table on his living room table. He would loan to me radio gear from time to time. He also always had a new plastic truck toy from the Hess Oil company to give to my son. I went to his funeral and met some of his family. I was amazed that they knew of me, from stories he would tell of the visits.
Irving Strobing is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

53 Transcripts: The Hacks

Unlike my other summaries of the 53 transcripts recently released by the House Intelligence Committee, there is a lot about this subject I simply don't know enough about to have an informed opinion, other than sticking for now to my default view that the hacks were Russian linked and that the Trump campaign had nothing to do with them. 

The 2016 election campaign hack story can be confusing because there were three different hacks and releases by Wikileaks and a fourth possible hack, which would have occurred earlier, and provides essential context.

The Hacks

John Podesta (Chairman of Clinton campaign) - March 2016 with Wikileaks release on October 7, 2016.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) - April 2016 with Wikileaks release in late August.

Democratic National Committee (DNC) - April 2016 with Wikileaks release beginning on July 22, 2016.

The fourth possible hack is of the Hillary Clinton emails from her time as Secretary of State (2009-13) when she maintained a private server which did not meet government security standards.  These include 33,000 emails she had destroyed in an effort to obstruct justice.  It is possible that foreign powers, including Russia and/or China, may be obtained these emails.  The missing emails and the possibility of a foreign unfriendly power having them was being publicly discussed well before public knowledge of the three hacks described above.


Those interviewed by the committee with knowledge relevant to the hacks:

John Podesta
Andrew Brown (Technology Director, DNC)
Marc Elias (Perkins Coie, counsel for DNC and Clinton Campaign)
Michael Sussman (Perkins Coie)
Shawn Henry (Crowdstrike)
Yared Tamed (IT Contractor, DNC)

Podesta and Brown had nothing of value to say.  Podesta's hack was very simple.  He clicked on a link in an email sent to him which allowed someone access to his emails.  The summary below will focus on the DNC hack along with some discussion of the DCCC hack.

The Testimony

Yared Tamed worked as a fulltime IT contractor for the DNC since 2013, reporting to Andrew Brown.  In September 2015 she was notified by the FBI that its cybersecurity unit had identified a possible penetration of the DNC servers by a foreign entity.  She and her team looked but could not find anything.  Tamed continued periodically speaking but the "Information FBI was providing honestly was frustrating in how redacted it was". (p.15)

In April 2016, the FBI requested logs (metadata from email which was sent on the 29th), but the day before her team found unusual activity on the network leading them to a hacker.  They subsequently found a second hacker using tools provided by CrowdStrike once it was brought into the matter.

Tamed testified she provided requested images to CrowdStrike which provided them to the FBI.

Marc Elias of Perkin Coie became aware of the DNC hack in April 2016 and reached out to his firm's cybersecurity law expert, Michael Sussman, a former DOJ lawyer.  Sussman hired Crowdstrike, with whom he had not worked before, on the recommendation of others at the firm, but testified the FBI told him it was Russian hackers even before CrowdStrike was hired.

Although James Comey testified the FBI was denied access to the servers, Sussman testified he told the FBI they could have access to anything they wanted, including the servers, but they never asked for access.

Shawn Henry, President of CrowdStrike, joined the company after retiring from the FBI in 2012.  According to Henry what they saw after being hired "was consistent with what we'd seen previously and associated with Russian Government". (p.25)

Henry explained that the two hackers were (1) Russian intelligence (known as Cozy Bear) and (2) Russian military intelligence (known as Fancy Bear).  Cozy Bear had been monitoring email and communications channels at the DNC since July 2015.  Fancy Bear got into the DCCC opposition research and candidate files in early April 2016 and was able to migrate from there into the DNC servers on April 11 where, later that month, it was discovered by Tamed's team.  According to Henry, CrowdStrike did not "have any reason to believe they actually were coordinating with each other." (p.49)

Regarding the issue of data exfiltration which received some media attention when the transcripts were released, Henry stated:
"We have indicators that data was exfiltrated.  We did not have concrete evidence that data was exfiltrated from the DNC . . . it appears it was set up to be exfiltrated, but we just don't have the evidence that says it actually left". (p.32)
However, Henry said there was clear evidence data was exfiltrated from the DCCC.

Marc Elias made an intriguing remark about the DCCC hack:
"I would dare say that not even every member of the committee would, if give the - was able to hack either the [DCCC] or [NRCC] would have the level of sophistication to pick out the kinds of records that were picked out and put online.  And certainly, it seemed to me unlikely that a foreign adversary sitting in Moscow did that" (p.57)
He later speculated regarding the leaked swing House district opposition research, that while it was plausible Russians did the hacking they would not have understood the value of the information.

These observations were not followed up during the committee questioning.  My guess is Elias made them to try to give creedence to the idea that the Trump campaign was coordinating with the Russians and providing the expertise to interpret the documents.  I find that absurd, given how little political expertise (and time) the Trump campaign staff had, along with the fact there is not one bit of concrete evidence of such collaboration.

Under questioning Sussman testified to something not directly relevant to the hacks but of interest as to the Russia collusion story.  Prior to the election, Sussman's former colleague at DOJ and then General Counsel of the FBI, Jim Baker, passed on to him information about contacts to Russian entities and the Trump organization which he then passed on to the New York Times, Washington Post, and Slate.

All of those associated with the Trump campaign who testified denied any involvement with or knowledge of any of the hacks.  They thought it was a bad joke when the accusations were made and dismissed Trump's remarks during the campaign about Hillary's emails as the candidate's typical riffing off the cuff. 

During his testimony Steve Bannon was asked if there had been any discussions about the hacking.  He said it only came up in the debate prep, when the discussion was how, if the question was asked, to pivot to the topic of Clinton corruption which Trump was hammering away on.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Your Future

This is for the younger folks out there; I'm an old guy so it doesn't matter for me.

Pay close attention to this scene from The Lives Of Others, one of the finest movies ever made.

Note this exchange:
You think we imprison people on a whim?


If you think our humanistic system capable of it, that alone would justify your arrest.

And also observe the checkmark the Stasi instructor (1) places against the name of the student who asks whether it is inhumane to keep the prisoner awake for 40 hours.  If you are ever in a corporate training class on diversity, sexual harrassment, inclusion, or whatever trendy thing is on the agenda, remember to keep any negative thoughts or questions to yourself or just speak up to enthusiastically endorse whatever the presenter is saying.  They will be making checkmarks.

It's important to know who really holds the power.  As Kevin Williamson observed:
“If you want to know who actually has the power in our society and who is actually marginalized, ask which ideas get you sponsorships from Google and Pepsi and which get you fired.”
To help you along, here are some key terms and definitions you may find useful in order to succeed in your future:

Tolerance - the willingness to tolerate people and ideas you agree with.

Diversity - the willingness to accept all people as long as they agree with you.

Dialogue - the willingess of people to listen and follow your instructions as to what they should believe.

Problematic - ideas you don't agree with that require the silencing of those who express them and getting them fired from their jobs.

Justice - the result of treating people as group members and holding them guilty or praiseworthy based upon their immutable characteristics.

Speech - the equivalent of violence if you disagree with it.

Violence - not-violence if you agree with the cause.

And remember, the government of China is in the process of instituting Social Credit scores, rating its citizens on whether they fit harmoniously into the government's standards for society and using it to determine access to jobs, housing, and other everyday aspects of life.  A version of it will be coming here if 21st century progressives have their way.  So be on your best behavior.

Look at the bright side, your future may be a world of stultifying conformity but you'll do just fine.  Or at least okay.  Or at least survive.  As long as you know your place.  A place that will be determined by others. 

A few years ago I might have written this as satire.  It no longer is.

Sincerely yours,

From a guy who was a liberal back when we believed in freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, due process and equal treatment under the law.


(1)  The actor playing the Stasi instructor lived in East Germany, where he was a member of an acting company, until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.  When the Stasi files were opened he discovered several of his fellow actors were informing on him to the Stasi.

Right Down The Line

It was you/right down the line 
Did anyone have a smoother, more relaxing style than Gerry Rafferty?

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Real News You Can Use

We are slowly getting there . . .

Former Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Robert Mueller as Special Counsel and signed off on the final FISA warrant renewal application on Carter Page admitted in Senate testimony today that by August 2017 there was . . . well, read for yourself:
Senator Lindsay Graham: "The whole concept, that the campaign was colluding with the Russians, there was no 'there' there in August of 2017, do you agree or not?"

Rosenstein:  "I agree with the general statement,"
Maybe someday Rod can back it up even further since, as is now evident, there was no there there by May 2017 when Mueller was initially appointed.  As IG Horowitz's reported, by early 2017, Christopher Steele's primary source for the dossier had repudiated its truth and the FBI had been unable to confirm any portions of it, Carter Page had been interviewed, without counsel, and nothing had turned up on George Papadopolous.  There was nothing, nada, zilch.

He also testified he was unaware the FBI had failed to validate the dossier.

More on the rot in our institutions . . .

On June 1, Mona Hicks, Stanford University's dean of students sent an email to students:
As a Black woman, I am also struggling to make meaning in our world today…. This loving refrain from Assata Shakur still rings true as I shelter-in-place: ‘It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains,'"
The communist Assata Shakur was convicted of 1st degree murder of a New Jersey State Trooper in 1973 along with several bombings and robberies.  She escaped prison and has been sheltered in communist Cuba for more than 40 years.  This is not someone who is loving.  This is not someone who cares for people as individuals.  This is not someone who cares about freedom, unless it is defined as the freedom for people to do precisely what she wants them to do.  In a truly just and caring society if Mona Hicks really believed this she would be unsuited for her position.  Unfortunately, in academic America it is precisely those beliefs that qualify her for the position (for another example see the academic veneration afforded another communist, Angela Davis).  For the milieu that spawned creatures like Shakur read my post The Company You Keep or the book Days of Rage.

Two New York lawyers were arrested for throwing a Molotov cocktail into a city police vehicle.  The van in which they were traveling was found to have additional bomb making equipment.  One of those arrested is a Pakistani immigrant, Umooj Rahman, a member of Fordham Law School's International Human Rights Clinic.  Thirty or forty years ago Human Rights law had a distinguished pedigree.  Today it is just another once venerated instituted hollowed out by the Left, which now demands the same respect the institution formerly deserved.

Rahman has been released on $250,000 bail by her self-described "best friend" Salmah Rizvi.  According to her biography:
Salmah also worked fulltime for the U.S. Departments of State and Defense [during the Obama Administration] as a lead linguist and analyst, mastering multiple foreign languages including Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi and gaining expertise in international security and diplomacy. Her high-value work would often inform the President’s Daily Briefs. 
Rizvi attended NYU Law School, supported in part by a scholarship from the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR), an Islamist terrorist supporting organization.  Oh, and wouldn't you know it, she also got a scholarship from the George Soros family.  All the best people working for the destruction of America.  Along the way she worked for the racist Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement regarding Israel and is now a very well-paid associate at the prestigious law firm of Ropes & Gray.  She's got a future ahead of her!

Respect and honor is due . . . 

David Dorn, a 77 year old retired St Louis police captain, working security at a friend's pawn shop who was shot and killed by looters undoubtedly upset by the death of George Floyd and seeking justice from "the system".
David Dorn worked with the St. Louis Police Department for 38 years.

Dave Underwood, a Federal Protective Services Officer murdered in Oakland by peaceful protesters seeking racial equity in our unjust society.

These men died protecting the rest of us from barbarism.

The death of George Floyd was one of those rare moments of national unity with everyone condemning it. That was precisely what the Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and social justice types didn’t want and they worked quickly to make it an opportunity to create even more divisiveness and hate. None of them care one bit about George Floyd the person; he is simply a vehicle to promote their pre-existing, immoral and destructive agendas and they sure as hell don't care about David Dorn and Dave Underwood.  I am outraged by the layers of false narrative put out by these groups and supported by much of the media and many politicians.

I'm trying to channel my anger in a constructive way and have been using newspaper stories to help identify businesses looted and destroyed by these monsters.  Several have established GoFundMe Pages and we are making anonymous donations to help them repair their lives.  So far we've found a third generation black owned business in Richmond, VA and a Chicago convenience store owned by a Pakistani immigrant.  We'll find others.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

53 Transcripts: Papadopolous and Page: How'd That Happen?

In March 2016, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had a problem.  As Trump moved to the front of the GOP pack, the press was starting to take the candidate more seriously, asking questions about who was advising him on foreign policy, implying (well, maybe more than implying) he lacked the gravitas and substance needed to be President.

As with any policy matter in the campaign, foreign policy was whatever Donald Trump said in the moment but Lewandowski wasn't about to say that, knowing what the press reaction would be.   He needed to have a group of national security advisors so the media would stop saying they didn't have one.  And he was getting pressure from Jared Kushner to fix it fast.

According to their testimony, no one associated with the Trump campaign had a detailed policy discussion with the candidate on any subject, let alone Russia.  The Trump you saw on the campaign trail was the private Trump, talking in generalities and not interested in details.

To the extent anyone recalled discussions about Russia it was at the level of wanting Russia's cooperation against ISIS or Steve Bannon's characterization of Trump's view (which he also attributed to Michael Flynn) that "they're an enemy, but somebody that you may be able to work with over time, and you certainly don't want more enemies in the world" (p.34).  Discussions were more at the level of what Michael Cohen recounted as his one conversation with Trump about Russia which consisted of him saying, "Did you see that President Putin said some really nice things about me?" (p.140).

Lewandowski decided he needed to "check the box" and move on, so on March 12, 2016 he called Sam Clovis, senior policy advisor and a campaign co-chair.  Clovis was an ex-fighter pilot, former Inspector General for NORAD, later a talk show host in Iowa who lost the 2014 primary for the Republican Senate nomination to Jodi Ernst.  Sam was initially a Rick Perry supporter, who joined the Trump campaign after Perry dropped out.

Clovis described himself to the committee as a "Classic Cold War warrior" who favored containing Russia and supported Trump because he was a "trade hawk". (p.15).  He also dismissed Trump's favorable comments regarding Putin:
". . . I think he was having a lot of fun with the Putin thing" and liked to "play up [the bromance] . . . I just think he really liked poking the media". (p.16)
When asked about Trump's foreign policy views, Sam's response was like the others, "I don't think he ever expressed to me definitively what he thought about foreign policy on any level" (p.17), and reinforced what the committee had been hearing from others about thin campaign staffing, "Policy shop was one-deep and it was me." (p.18)

Lewandowski tasked Clovis with putting together a National Security advisory board which would have a short public session with media present and then a one-hour meeting with the President.  Other than that it would have no further duties or meetings.  Before coming back to what Clovis did next, there are three other Trump associates involved with the advisory board.

Jeff Sessions was the first senator to endorse Donald Trump and he was asked to chair the board.  To the committee, Sessions described his foreign policy views as transitioning in recent years from Wilsonian to realist.  His view of the board:
"The committee was not any serious - a group of people authorized to speak for President Trump, and they absolutely weren't authorized to go around the world pretending to represent him". (p.26)
Navy veteran Jeff (JD) Gordon served as Pentagon spokesperson for Secretaries Rumsfeld and Gates.  Gordon testified he believed Russia was a threat, though it was okay to try to deal with the country, but:
"I think the Obama administration tried to have better relations but for getting nothing in return at all." (52)
He was Director of the board and confirmed it was a one-time event.

Rick Dearbon had worked for Senator Sessions since 1996, was his chief of staff, and, as a part-time job, ran the DC policy office for the Trump campaign. (1)

Sessions, Gordon, and Dearborn had never heard of Papadopoulos (I'm just going to call him Papa from here on because I'm tired of typing his full name) and Page before they were recommended by Sam Clovis.  And how did Clovis come across them?

Carter Page came to Clovis' attention through Ed Cox, chair of the New York Republican Party and son-in-law of Richard Nixon.  Page was a 1993 graduate of the Naval Academy (top 10% in his class) and served five years on active duty.  After leaving the service he did a Fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations, got an MBA from NYU, joined Merrill Lynch as an investment banker and was a VP in that firm's Moscow office.  He'd left Merrill in 2009 to co-found Global Energy Capital, a little known energy investment firm.  Along the way he'd gotten to know Cox who introduced him to Lewandowski, and Clovis met him while visiting Trump Tower in early 2016. (2)

If Page's credentials were thin and definitely not a heavy hitter in the national security arena, those of the 28-year old Papa were virtually nonexistent.  He'd been working on Ben Carson's campaign, and cold-called Lewandowski who passed him on to Clovis.  Papa had a Masters in Security Studies from University College London and worked as an unpaid intern at the Hudson Institute from 2011 to 2015.  In 2015 he'd joined Energy Stream, a small London-based (where Papa was living) energy consultancy.

Lewandowski told Clovis they needed to stop getting beat up by the media and NeverTrumpers and "alleviate some of the press pressure". (p.39) but the problem facing Clovis was that most of the GOP foreign policy establishment wanted nothing to do with Donald Trump.  Sam was able to assemble a few people with some experience for the board, Generals Keith Kellogg, Bert Mizusawa, Garry Harrell, Admiral Chuck Kubic, Walid Phares, Joe Schmitz, telling the committee, "That was about all the people we had on a Rolodex that were supportive of the President that had any cachet at all". (p.40) but felt he needed to add a couple more which is when he reached out to Papa and Page.  Why he needed more was never explained but it reminds me of this scene from Ocean's 11.

He'd only met Papa on the phone but "He was young, didn't have a lot of experience, but at that point we needed people" (p.41), and later in his testimony added, Papa was "a man on the make" "I thought he was in it for himself, and I didn't think he was in it for the candidate"(p.76)  Clovis had a higher opinion of Page though he was "far more . . . favorably disposed to Russia" than himself (p.24), and felt, "he was one of the few people we could find that had a credible enough background that we could put him on that team and would help assauge the press" (p.58), so decided to fill out the board with the two.

Bannon claimed he thought the National Security advisors were weak and told Lewandowski not to do it but he wanted to "check the box and get it out". (p.181)  Whether or not Bannon actually said it (I'm skeptical of anything Bannon says), Lewandowski, by his own admission, paid no attention to the advisors and any substance of foreign policy.  At one point in his testimony he said he'd had a discussion with President Trump just after the Papadopolous indictment and plea was announced and was asked:
"What did you say to the President about George Papadopolous?"
"I said, who the fuck is this guy?" (p.43)
Papa and Page did not impress anybody.  In his polite, mannered way, Jeff Session said:
"Well, I didn't feel like either one had - apparently had a background of significance, that would indicate that they had contributions to make."(p.33)
Rick Dearborn called Papa:"A volunteer that attended one meeting that wanted to travel and had no access to the candidate other than the one meeting"(p.47) and later wrote an email referring to the pair:
"I've met him once.  He has a Carter Page problem.  He goes and meets with folks, expresses his views, and then is tagged by the press as our guy". (p.49) 
Walid Phares, a board member who actually had a reputation and expertise told the committee the other board members wondered why Papa was a member given his lack of experience, and he came to the conclusion that "What he wanted to do is to appear in the campaign as the person who could engage in establishing these relationships". (p.44)  Phares went on to say that while Papa and Page's views on Russia were different from those of the rest of the board:
"At that time, discussing international relations and relations with Russia and China or anybody in the world, was not a taboo.  It was a normal matter." (p.47)
The only meeting of the board took place on March 31 in Washington DC - Carter Page did not attend!  The press was invited in and took photos and then left.  According to Rick Dearborn there was no agenda and no written summary of the meeting.  However, the memory of those attending is consistent.  The meeting last for an hour.  Trump began by asking each member to introduce themselves and make a short statement but Trump and the second board member to introduce himself, Keith Payne, spent 40 minutes talking nuclear weapons and doctrine and national security philosophy, leaving very little time for the others and any other dialogue.  Papa spoke for 90 seconds or two minutes before Sessions shut him down, when Papa raised the possibility of Trump meeting with Putin during the campaign.  It was the only time during the meeting when Sessions intervened which he testified he did because Papa was out of line raising the issue.

Though it was the only time Papa and Page were "active" in the campaign, their actions bedeviled Clovis, Gordon, Dearborn and others throughout and then became the hook upon which the entire Russia collusion hoax was pegged.

Papa was ostensibly the reason the FBI commenced the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, based on his conversation with the mysterious Josef Mifsud (we know what he isn't - Russian asset or FBI informant - but we still don't know what Mifsud is) about damaging Clinton emails supposedly possessed by the Russians, a conversation Papa never told anyone on the Trump campaign about (3), and Page was the target of the FISA warrant, a warrant based on allegations he was the lynchpin of the coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Both Page and Papa kept sending emails trying to push the idea of a Trump-Putin meeting but campaign officials either ignored them or fobbed them off with polite excuses.  As Lewandowski put it when shown one of Page's emails offering such a meeting:
"I wouldn't have needed Carter Page if Donald Trump wanted to see Vladimir Putin". (p.87)
And Clovis said of Papa's proposal for a meeting, "I thought it was a bogus offer" from a self-promoter. (p.88)

As to Papa, Walid Phares impression was "Dr Clovis wanted Papa out of his hair" and and everytime Papa raised a possible Putin meeting "Clovis and JD would say: well it's like dismissive, to we don't need that now". (p.65)

Apart from Papa's conversation with Josef Mifsud (4), the biggest issue was Page's acceptance of an invitation to speak at a conference in Moscow.  According to JD Gordon, Carter Page had "zero" role in formulating campaign policy towards Russia and Ukraine. (p60) and told Page the trip to Russia was a "bad idea" but he went around him and got approval from Lewandowski, as long as it was clear he was there on a personal basis, not representing the campaign.  Once this became public in September, Page was told to disassociate himself from campaign.  Page's Moscow visit allowed the Steele Dossier to paint him as having secret discussions with top Russian officials and Gazprom executives (for which there is no evidence), which was further spun into his alleged role in influencing the Ukraine plank in the GOP platform (something he had nothing to do with).

The association of Papa and Page with the campaign was a disaster both for their lack of substance and for their actions which helped embroil the Trump presidency for three years.


(1)  There was a campaign staffer who was linked to Russia in the past.  Michael Caputo, NY State primary director for the campaign and then communications director for caucus operations in the lead up to the convention, did business as a political consultant in that country during the 1990s.   He told the committee he'd never discussed Russia with anyone in the campaign, "There is a good reason for that.  We were running and gunning with our hair on fire". (p. 22)  Like others caught up in the collusion hoax, his job prospects suffered and testified that he'd had to liquidate his childrens' college fund to pay for legal representation.

(2)  Clovis didn't know that Page was an informant for the FBI and had been frequently debriefed by the CIA regarding his contacts with Russians.  The IG Report took the FBI to task for lying to the FISA Court and not informing it of Page's history with the agencies.

(3)  Adam Schiff described the contents of this conversation with so much lurid overstatement that even the FBI's Andrew McCabe pushed back, telling him, "The original Papadopolous information wasn't quite that specific". (p38)  McCabe also made a revealing statement as to why the FISA Warrant was on Page, even though the original information that came to the FBI regarded Papadopolous, "The Papadopolous comment didn't particularly indicate that he was the person that had had - that was interacting with the Russians". (p.13)  This resulted in the peculiar circumstances I noted in a prior post that the FBI Special Agent who handled Steele was informed the dossier was used to corroborate the original information regarding Papadopolous even though the dossier could never be validated, the FBI didn't have enough to get a warrant on Papa, and Papa isn't mentioned in the dossier!

(4)  Mifsud approached Papa immediately after the announcement that he was part of the Trump campaign.