Tag Archives: Trump Russia

If the Administration Won’t Pay Attention to Russian Interference Then We Must

The good news:  “Nevada is organizing cybersecurity under a new central hub, according to the Secretary of State’s Office, and is among more than 35 states sending officials to a cyber security incident response training at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center in Massachusetts later this month.” [LVSun 3/18]  That’s the good news…it’s more questionable to observe it’s been 530 days since the Department of Homeland Security first issued a warning about Russian interference in our national elections.

“The Obama administration on Friday formally accused the Russian government of stealing and disclosing emails from the Democratic National Committee and a range of other institutions and prominent individuals, immediately raising the issue of whether President Obama would seek sanctions or other retaliation.

In a statement from the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., and the Department of Homeland Security, the government said the leaked emails that have appeared on a variety of websites “are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.” [NYT 2016]

Nevadans have been assured the state was not a direct target of election interference at the systemic level. [LVSun 3/18]  In other good news Nevada did address the cybersecurity matter in AB 471 the title of which was:

“An act relating to cybersecurity; creating the Nevada Office of Cyber Defense Coordination within the Department of Public Safety; providing for the powers and duties of the Office; requiring the Nevada Commission on Homeland Security to consider a certain report of the Office when performing certain duties; providing for the confidentiality of certain information regarding cybersecurity; requiring certain state agencies to comply with the provisions of certain regulations adopted by the Office; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.”

Translation from the legalese: Nevada took coordinating cybersecurity seriously enough to require state agencies to get on the same page.  This includes the Secretary of State’s office and its related election jurisdiction.

It would be nice if the federal government were taking this issue as seriously as the states.   A quick review:  On December 9, 2016 President Obama ordered a review of Russian attempts to “hack” the American elections. The president-elect dismissed the warnings from the intelligence community saying in effect these were the people who said Iraq had WMDs. [USAT]  On December 28, 2016 President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closes Russian compounds in New York and Maryland.  Nothing happens officially to punish Russian agencies and individuals during the early months of the current administration.  On May 17, 2017 the Justice Department appoints Special Counsel Robert Mueller who is tasked with discovering if any US laws were violated on the part of US citizens and others.

As news of Russian interference trickled out in the press more interest in the issue came from congressional quarters, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced S. 341 (Russian Sanctions Review Act) on April 27, 2017.  By July the interest increased to the point that HR 3364 passed the Congress almost unanimously, it was signed into law on August 2, 2017.  No action was taken by the executive branch to implement the requirements of the law immediately.

Indeed, it was March 15, 2018 before the Department of the Treasury issued enhanced sanctions on Russia, releasing the following statement:

Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated five entities and 19 individuals under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) as well as Executive Order (E.O.) 13694, “Blocking the Property of Certain Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities,” as amended, and codified pursuant to CAATSA.

The list of individuals and entities sanctioned was remarkably similar to the Mueller investigation list of those indicted for interference and illegal activities.

The current administration has not convened any cabinet level coordinated meetings to date regarding Russian interference in US elections, a sore point with Senator Benjamin Cardin who issued a minority report from his Senate committee. [pdfOne recommendation was prescient:

“U.S. and European governments should mandate that social media companies make public the sources of funding for political advertisements, along the same lines as TV channels and print media. Social media companies should conduct comprehensive audits on how their platforms may have been used by Kremlin-linked entities to influence elections occurring over the past several years, and should establish civil society advisory councils to provide input and warnings about emerging disinformation trends and government suppression. In addition, they should work with philanthropies, governments, and civil society to promote media literacy and reduce the presence of disinformation on their platforms.”

And, so we continue. The president congratulated Putin on the occasion of his reelection in an election characterized by eliminating competition and blatant voting fraud.  Nevertheless, the drip continues… reports of social media manipulation, stories about the machinations of the super PACs, Cambridge Analytical, Facebook, and so forth. We know that 21 states were “hacked” in 2016, we know that one was penetrated, and we know that Nevada — fortunately — wasn’t one of them. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have a stake in this game.

We owe it to ourselves to keep track of state efforts to thwart foreign efforts to attack our voting security systems.  We need to think about the security of our state election rolls and related systems. We need to support efforts to improve the technical acumen of our state and local election officials.  We need periodic updates from our Secretary of State on steps taken by our government to upgrade our voting equipment, and secure our registration.  We also need to pay more attention to how social media is used and abused to cause disruptions to our politics and political discussions. We need to pay attention.

Comments Off on If the Administration Won’t Pay Attention to Russian Interference Then We Must

Filed under elections, Nevada politics, Politics

No Toleration for Intolerance, and other matters

No, I don’t feel one tiny little bit of need to be one tiny little bit magnanimous or even a tiny little bit of need to be tolerant of the Oaf in the Oval Office — or the politicians who enable him.

I feel no need to be tolerant of those who rally the uglies.  The uglies are those who think calling out African American congressional representatives (see: Frederica Wilson and Maxine Waters)  and addressing them with epithets is appropriate from an Oval Office occupant.  And, what’s with calling out Jemele Hill of ESPN?  What do these three have in common?  Oh, yeah, I get it.  It’s obvious.  The Oaf’s performance in Pennsylvania was enough to curdle any and all positive feelings toward a once proud office and a once proud political party.  It’s OK to be outraged, in fact if a person isn’t outraged then it’s time for a reality check.

I feel no need to be tolerant of a government which cannot seem to find voice when our closest ally on this planet is told that a nerve agent attack in Salisbury “looks” like the Russians did it, but “we” will wait for a conversation with Prime Minister May before making a statement.  WE have already heard from the Prime Minister. She was all over the TV landscape yesterday with strong words in their Parliament. She was concise. She was forceful. She was measured but emphatic.  WE can take her word for it. She doesn’t need to reveal sources and methods in order for US to believe her.  In fact, I used up my blogging time yesterday watching BBC News, and following their news and analysis.  There wasn’t anything nebulous about the coverage.  However, WE have an Oval Office Occupant who can’t bring himself to say anything negative about one of the most egregious thugs on this planet.   Why it is even necessary to ask: Now, will we implement the sanctions against Russian passed almost unanimously by Congress last year?

I feel no need to take his sycophants like Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Moscow Oblast) seriously.  Rep. Nunes is perfectly free to make a complete fool of himself with his issuance of a report clearly intended to exonerate the Oval Office Oaf.  Except it won’t.  Representative Nunes evidently believes it is more important to protect the OOO than to determine to what extent the current mis-administration was aligned with Russian efforts to interfere in our electoral processes and institutions.  Rep. Nunes is marching alongside those who find it impossible to conduct serious inquiries and thereby suggest serious legislation to resolve problems which led to the Russian interference.

I feel no need to support an administration the prime characteristic of which is the cacophony of a one man band playing off key and out of rhythm.   The Oval Office Oaf doesn’t even have the courage to fire people face to face.  He sends a body-guard to fire the former Director of the FBI, he sends a tweet to fire a Secretary of State, he is a coward.  He may want “conflict” but he can’t handle confrontation.

Item:  He conducted a skit about DACA at the White House.  He was all for a compromise, he would take the political heat, he would sign a bi-partisan bill. Until — he got a bi-partisan bill delivered to him for his approval and suddenly he didn’t want to take the political heat, and he caved to the racist opponents of immigration reform.

Item: He conducted a skit concerning gun reform at the White House.  He was all for several proposals which might reduce the lethality of mass shootings. Until — he met with the leadership of the NRA, and suddenly he was carrying their water in oversize pails.  There’s precious little reason for anyone to visit the White House to present proposals on most important subjects because the Oval Office Oaf will make comments and express concern only to reverse himself faster than a used car lot inflatable air dancer in a hurricane.

I feel no need to be tolerant of an administration beset with moral and ethical issues. Granted there have been embarrassments in all administrations.  However, this one is beyond the range of our previous imagination.  One year into an administration and key members can’t get a security clearance?  At least one person who was under investigation for “serious financial crimes,” was fired from the White House only to find immediate employment with the re-election campaign this week.  Who hires people who are under investigation for “serious financial crimes?” Four Cabinet officials have been ‘reprimanded’ for their questionable travel and expenditures. Four, and it’s only 400+ days into an administration.

Presidents need not be saints, and Heaven knows a few of ours haven’t been, but pay offs to a porn star?  That’s a new one.  Yes, supporters of James Blaine in the 1884 election would chant “Ma Ma Where’s My Pa?”  The rejoinder from advocates of Grover Cleveland’s candidacy was “Gone to the White House, Ha Ha Ha.”  However, none of our former Presidents faced allegations of sexual misconduct from 19 women.

And then there’s the money.

“…an investigation by The New York Times into the financial maze of Mr. Trump’s real estate holdings in the United States reveals that companies he owns have at least $650 million in debt — twice the amount than can be gleaned from public filings he has made as part of his bid for the White House. The Times’s inquiry also found that Mr. Trump’s fortunes depend deeply on a wide array of financial backers, including one he has cited in attacks during his campaign.” [NYT]

His claim that he’s had “nothing to do with Russia” is pure nonsense.   For all the salacious interest in the Oval Office Oaf’s sexual misconduct — the more fruitful segments of current investigations are likely encapsulated in the Nixon era maxim “follow the money.”

In the mean time, I do not intend to “follow the President,” and I do not wish him well as he undercuts environmental protections, consumer protections, financial consumer protections; our standing among nations, our relationships with our allies, and our prestige in the world.  Nor do I intend to grant him any accolades for continuing his divisive, irrational, and racist rhetoric.  One campaign filled with that was sufficient.

I do take some comfort knowing that 65,853,516 people in this country may agree with me.

1 Comment

Filed under Politics

The Great Safety Distraction

In December 2015 the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau issued an update on “Nevada Crime and Corrections.” (pdf)  What we discover from this brief table of statistics is that between 2009 and 2013 the percentage change in the number of crimes committed dropped by 4%.  We had a relatively high rate of violent crimes per 100,000 persons (4th nationally) but the violent crime rate in Nevada between 2009 and 2013 declined by 16.2%, while the national violent crime rate declined by 14.8%.  Somehow these numbers make the drumbeat of references to violent criminal immigrants ring a bit hollow.  Street  gangs are a problem, but the problem may not be as dramatic as proponents of immigration restriction infer.

The Las Vegas Sun published an article in June 2015 with the dramatic headline that there were approximately 20,000 street gang members in the Las Vegas metropolitan area.  The population total for the Las Vegas area in 2015 was estimated at 2,111,000.  [data]  The Las Vegas economic agencies inform us that 45% of the Clark County population is white, 10.3% is African-American, and 30.9% are Hispanic/Latino, and another 9.3% are of Asian descent.  However, as the Sun article suggests it’s hard to equate gang membership to immigration or ethnic status in any definitive way, because each demographic group has its own gangs.

The street gangs identified in Las Vegas tend to be associated with the old standard Crips and Bloods — the Crips having developed in Los Angeles between the mid 1960’s and 1971.  The Bloods developing in response to the increasing influence of the Crips.  White gangs are more difficult to track in terms of membership because they dislike calling themselves a gang, although it’s hard to differentiate their violence and drug trafficking from that of their African American cohorts.  The Hispanic street gangs show a similar connection to California as those of the African American gangs.

The major group appears to be the Surenos (Southerners, as in Southern California) opposed by the Nortenos (Northerners, also from California), and their associated;  added to by a Las Vegas oriented group the Barrio Naked City gang. [Sun]  Notice that MS-13, the group often cited by the current President is not among these major gangs in the Las Vegas area.  One reason may well be that law enforcement has depleted their  leadership. [LVnow]  They’ve been a target of Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice for the past two years.  The most recent estimate indicates that there are about 150 MS 13 gang members in the Las Vegas area.  We now enter the realm of conflation.

It is extremely difficult to definitively state that US immigration policy has a direct correlation to gang activity, especially in terms of minors and young people entering the country.  DHS has been asked for statistics/data on unaccompanied minors who are found to be gang members, but did not respond (Politifact).  A person who has been charged with a crime in a foreign country is not eligible for asylum in the U.S. Another issue is that the officials aren’t breaking down what is meant by “gang members or suspected gang members.” Some instances of the gang label have not been substantiated by immigration enforcement.  [See the Savaria v. Sessions case.  Also: ACLU, and ACLU petition pdf]  If we conflated “confirmed” and “suspected” memberships then the problems associated with gangs are automatically exaggerated. [Politifact] Yet another problem with the conflation is that no one appears certain that minors who came to the US came as gang members or were recruited after they arrived.   [Politifact]  The Politifact article summarizes the conflation problem:

“DHS, Sessions, and Trump are trying to shift the focus of immigration enforcement to MS-13 in order to repeatedly drill in the message that immigrants are dangerous criminals,” Ahmed said.

But many gang members were born in the United States, and gangs form in conditions of marginality, which also exist in other countries, said Wolf, the researcher with CIDE in Mexico.

“There is no doubt that MS-13 has engaged in serious and heinous forms of violence, devastating families and communities. But the emphasis on immigrants as the source of the gang problem in the United States is misguided,” said David C. Pyrooz, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder, whose research includes gangs and criminal networks.  [Politifact]

Of course one of the other dangers in the continual ‘calling out” of a particular (and particularly violent) gang is that public attention is diverted from gangs with larger memberships and which are homegrown.

MEANWHILE!  We have a President who categorically refuses to acknowledge the dangers presented to this country by Russian interference in our political institutions and processes. Who will not acknowledge the warnings given by our CIA, FBI, and national security experts. Who will not enforce the sanctions enacted by the 115th Congress. Who would prefer we focus our attention on the 150 MS 13 gang members in Las Vegas than the KARYN Network pushing the social media “news” on behalf of Russian interests.

Comments Off on The Great Safety Distraction

Filed under Crime Rates, Immigration, Nevada politics, Politics

The Great Dud: What We’re Not Hearing About the GOP Memo and Related Fiasco

The memo was released.  What followed ranged from protestations of great transparency (from an administration which won’t release tax returns and visitor logs) and great outrage from the loyal opposition decrying partisanship because their rebuttal was inexplicably (except we know why) delayed.  And then there was the Great Yawn.

it was rather like being promised a fireworks display only to find that the show would consist of one Roman Candle, two Sparklers, and a half string of firecrackers.  However,  what has not yet been discussed in any depth may be more interesting than all the preliminary hype and post-game interviews to date.

(1) There still seems to be an attempt on the part of the Republicans to anchor their arguments on a slender premise: The Steele memos informed the FISA application, the Steele memos were paid for by the Clinton Campaign, therefore the Steele memos are unreliable.  Here’s why I think that’s a questionable assumption.  What the Clinton Campaign was paying for was OPPOSITION RESEARCH.  When purchasing the services of opposition research consultants it is assumed that the campaign is buying accurate information, because only the most naive politician doesn’t know that if the opposition research is inaccurate, and the fruits of that research are used, the result is an inevitable backfire.  Usually a very expensive backfire.  Generally a very expensive and embarrassing backfire.

Hence, the better question may well be what does the public information we have to date from the various Russian interference investigations show about the accuracy of Steele’s report?

(2) There have been a few timelines constructed concerning the possible engagement of the Trump Campaign with various and sundry Russians and Russian government contacts.  These are useful, but only serve to describe the interactions during the Campaign and the transition.  What is missing is evidence clarifying the basis for these interactions.

At this point it appears journalists are investigating if and how the Trump Campaign and the Russians interacted, but not necessarily why they were doing so.  Given there was the infamous Trump Tower meeting about the potential lifting of sanctions (Magnitsky Act) then why did the Russians presume that their own opposition research on the DNC and Clinton Campaign would be a valuable bargaining chip with the Trump Campaign?

Of all the sources of opposition research available from all quarters of the globe in this interactive age, why was it the Russians with whom the Trump Campaign met to discuss the acquisition of information?

(3) The defense tactics of the current administration are interesting, but not necessarily crucial to the central question of what Americans can do to minimize the possibility of Russian interference during future election cycles. We might come to more definitive ideas about candidate propensities for conspiring with hostile powers or persons, but that doesn’t address how we can prevent: Hacking voter databases? Interfering with vote counts in elections conducted using vulnerable electronic voting machines? Manipulating voter information data? Inserting false information into social media streams?  Promoting divisive topics and themes on social media platforms?

If we assume we were hacked, and we know that at least 21 states were targets, then what actions have been taken by the administration and the Congress to alleviate this kind of interference?  The answer to this question as of now appears to be “nothing.”  Arguing about the substantiation for a single FISA court surveillance warrant doesn’t advance our understanding of election interference and its techniques.

There is a tendency in the corporate media to chase shiny objects.  The White House legal defense tactics are intriguing, but they should never be mistaken for the core of the election interference issue.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Politics

For Reference: House Intel Committee members who are shilling for Trump

Today, the Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee voted to (1) release the memo drafted by Chr. Devin Nunes’ staff calling FBI investigations into question; and (2) to disallow the release the Minority memo on the same subject.

The Republican Members are:

Devin Nunes (R-CA 22)

Peter King (R-NY2)

Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ2)

Tom Rooney (R-FL17)

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL 27)

Michael Turner (R-OH 10)

Brad Wenstrup (R-OH 2)

Chris Stewart (R-UT 2)

Rick Crawford (R-AR 1)

Trey Gowdy (R-SC 4)

Elise Stefanik (R-NY 21)

Will Hurd (R-TX 23)

Comments Off on For Reference: House Intel Committee members who are shilling for Trump

Filed under Politics

Breadcrumbs (2) The Russian Connection

This from Politico September 27, 2016

“RUBLES: FEC documents show Russian oil magnate Simon Grigorievich Kukes gave more than $150,000 to Donald Trump’s campaign and joint fundraising committee, Ashley Balcerzak reports for Open Secrets. Currently, he is CEO at NAFTA Consulting, a firm that advises American and Russian oil and gas companies, and sits on the board of on-demand software company Leverate. Kukes has also contributed to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Elizabeth Cheney’s campaign for Wyoming’s congressional seat. His resume includes head of Yukos, ousting President Vladimir Putin’s enemy Mikhail Khodorkovsky; president and CEO of Russia’s Tyumen Oil Company; general director of Lukoil subsidiary ZAO Samara-Nafta; and partner at New York-based oil and gas company Hess Corporation.”

Comments Off on Breadcrumbs (2) The Russian Connection

Filed under Politics

Deflection, Distraction, and Destruction: Trump & the GOP

“…this is exactly what Trump does when he’s in trouble. He finds an enemy and punches as hard as he can.”  [WaPo]

Now, why is he in trouble? And,  what will happen today in Reno at the American Legion convention?  Additionally, who will be standing with the President at the closed to the public event?  The Nevada Independent, which if you’ve not already bookmarked you should, reports: (1) Adam Laxalt, Tea Party Darling will gleefully meet the President and has wrangled radical right wing VP Pence to his Basque food-fest; (2) Dean Heller, maybe not so much but then he won’t say — so what is new about the Heller rope-a-dope strategy? (3) Mark Amodei (R-NV2) showed up Tuesday and may have skedaddled? “A spokeswoman for Amodei did not respond to a follow up question as to whether or not the congressman would meet with Trump while the president is in Reno.” (4) Governor Sandoval appears to be adopting the Republican Gubernatorial Avoidance Strategy — meet him at the airport and then scamper off out of sight thereafter.  If the crowd is thinning, then why the Great Counter Punch?

What makes the President go into full attack mode?  What sends him off on tangents about white supremacy, statues of CSA ‘heroes,’ and “the Media?”  There’s a pattern, the deflection and distraction flare as the investigation of his connections to the Russians progress.

Why did he fire former FBI Director James Comey? Why was he upset with A.G. Jeff Sessions?  Why did he hammer Sen. Mitch McConnell? — Why the “profane shouting match?

“During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.”

What happened prior to August 9, 2017 that’s increased the need for deflection and distraction?

On August 1, 2017 PBS reported that the President dictated the message delivered by his son concerning the meeting at Trump Tower during the campaign with a small host of Russians who were very interested in “adoptions” (read: getting rid of the Magnitsky Act sanctions.)  The President’s assertions that the investigation is fake news and a witch hunt cracks a bit when it’s known that HE was aware of the trouble his son was in for taking and arranging that meeting.  On August 3, 2017 the President grudgingly signed the new Russian sanctions bill dictated by Congress. No fanfare, no ceremony, and two explanations or signing statements.  That was the same day the Wall Street Journal reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had impaneled a grand jury in the District of Columbia.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) spoke out in support of the Grand Jury, and Mr. Mueller’s continuing investigation of all matters related to Russian interference, and thereafter was rewarded by a “tweet storm” of abuse from the President, reported on August 7th.  The Special Counsel investigators raided the home of former Trump Campaign manager Paul Manafort on August 9.  They were looking for tax documents and foreign banking records, and since they didn’t merely ask Manafort’s legal team for them we can safely assume Mr. Manafort was (a) not as cooperative as his press comments made him out to be, and (b) in possession of things he might very well want to destroy before they landed in Mr. Mueller’s hands.

Events in Charlottesville, VA on August 12 and 13, 2017 intervened to capture public attention as Neo-Nazis and white supremacists took center stage, and as the President waffled about who might have been “responsible.”  Presidential commentary about “history” and “heritage” as if they are synonymous deflected and distracted from the continuing Russia probe.

Fast forward to August 22, 2017 on which it is revealed that the “Trump Dossier” re-emerges into the public consciousness.  Spokespersons for the President have tagged the dossier as “unsubstantiated,” “debunked,” or “unproven” as a general matter, without noting that individual contentions within the document are still under investigation.  The president of the company underwriting the dossier has now spent an entire working day with the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee.    Interestingly enough, the President chose to spend a significant amount of his time during a campaign rally in Phoenix on August 22nd railing about “fake news” and the “unfair media.”

Those dismissing the dossier as “debunked” may be a bit premature.  The origin of the dossier investigation lies within the “never Trump” wing of the GOP, and after Trump secured the GOP nomination the Clinton Campaign was interested in the contents.  For a “debunked” piece of investigation it’s certainly had an impact, and the FBI now has information from the author about his sources, again as of August 22nd.  If some of the allegations in the Steele Dossier can be sourced, investigated, and substantiated, then the generalized “debunking” portion of the President’s defense can start to crack.  And, we wonder why he spent an inordinate amount of time denouncing the media on the evening of August 22, 2017?  Deflection and Distraction?

Perhaps now this paragraph concerning the cracks reported by the New York Times in the McConnell/Trump relationship makes more sense:

“During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.”

Why would the President become “more animated” about Senator McConnell’s purported failure to “protect” him?  Does the President demand Senator McConnell “protect” the President from the Senate Judiciary and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence?

Protect him from What?  Destruction?  The gamble for Republicans — from reluctant Senator Heller to enthusiastic Adam Laxalt — is whether to hitch their political futures to the distraction/deflection tactics of the current administration or cut loose and hope he doesn’t lead them to destruction.

Comments Off on Deflection, Distraction, and Destruction: Trump & the GOP

Filed under Amodei, Heller, nevada taxation, Politics, Republicans