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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Hillary, the Enemy

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss attacks on Hillary Clinton.

Saul Alinsky: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame."

Richard M. Nixon: "Politics is battle, and the best way to fire up your troops is to rally them against a visible opponent on the other side of the field. If a loyal supporter will fight hard for you, he will fight twice as hard against your enemies."

Eric Bradner at CNN:
Hillary Clinton hasn't hit the campaign trail yet on behalf of Democrats running in 2018, but that isn't stopping Republicans from using the former 2016 Democratic presidential nominee as a reliable campaign boogeyman.
In Pennsylvania's special election earlier this month, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan handed out door-hangers that featured Clinton and Nancy Pelosi to attack Democrat Conor Lamb.
And over the past two weeks, Republicans have tried to tie vulnerable Democratic senators to comments Clinton made at a recent event in India that were seen as a knock at more conservative areas of the country, in which she said she "won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward." President Donald Trump, she said, ran a backward-looking campaign.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has cut digital ads featuring Clinton's comments that target 10 Democratic senators running for reelection in states Trump won in 2016. The Republican challenger to one of those Democrats, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, has also released digital ads tying McCaskill to Clinton and her comments.

Quitting Fox, Quitting the GOP

In  Defying the Odds, we explain that Trump and his allies have renounced the conservatism of Ronald Reagan.

Ralph Peters at WP:
You could measure the decline of Fox News by the drop in the quality of guests waiting in the green room. A year and a half ago, you might have heard George Will discussing policy with a senator while a former Cabinet member listened in. Today, you would meet a Republican commissar with a steakhouse waistline and an eager young woman wearing too little fabric and too much makeup, immersed in memorizing her talking points.
This wasn’t a case of the rats leaving a sinking ship. The best sailors were driven overboard by the rodents.
As I wrote in an internal Fox memo, leaked and widely disseminated, I declined to renew my contract as Fox News’s strategic analyst because of the network’s propagandizing for the Trump administration. Today’s Fox prime-time lineup preaches paranoia, attacking processes and institutions vital to our republic and challenging the rule of law.
Four decades ago, as a U.S. Army second lieutenant, I took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution.” In moral and ethical terms, that oath never expires. As Fox’s assault on our constitutional order intensified, spearheaded by its after-dinner demagogues, I had no choice but to leave.
At Honolulu Civil Beat, former Rep. Charles Djou (R-Hawaii) on leaving the GOP:
Today, after much consideration, I abandon my party because I am unwilling to abandon my principles. I can no longer stand with a Republican Party that is led by a man I firmly believe is taking the party of Lincoln in a direction I fundamentally disagree with, and a party that is unwilling to stand up to him.
I have long believed that America’s strength lies in our nation’s diversity — not its exclusion or isolation. We are a nation of immigrants and benefit from a national fabric woven with the threads of many people, of many backgrounds and cultures, all united in the common belief and love of American liberty. That’s why I championed immigration reform as a congressman.
It disturbs me that the Republican Party under President Donald Trump is now defined as a party hostile to immigration. We are the leader of the free world, not because we are great (or need to be great again), but because we are good.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Leftward Ho to the Hill!

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race.

At Politico, Charlie Mahtesian writes:
In state after state, the left is proving to be the animating force in Democratic primaries, producing a surge of candidates who are forcefully driving the party toward a more liberal orientation on nearly every issue.
These candidates are running on an agenda that moves the party beyond its recent comfort zone and toward single-payer health care, stricter gun control, a $15 minimum wage, more expansive LGBT rights and greater protections for immigrants.
In the surest sign of the reoriented issue landscape, they’re joined by some of the most prominent prospects in the 2020 Democratic presidential field—Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris among them—who are embracing the same agenda.
According to data compiled by the Brookings Institution’s Primaries Project, the number of self-identified, nonincumbent progressive candidates in Texas spiked compared with the previous two election years. This year, there were nearly four times as many progressive candidates as in 2016. Meanwhile, the number of moderate and establishment candidates remained flat for the past three elections in Texas.
Even in Illinois, where the Democratic Party holds most of the levers of power, the data tell a similar story: There were more progressive candidates this year, the Primaries Project reports, than moderate and establishment candidates, by a count of 25 to 21.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Chaos President Fires Shulkin

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's approach to governing.

Trump sacked VA Secretary Shulkin and replaced him with the White House physician, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, who had done a good job on TV praising Trump's health.  David A. Graham at The Atlantic:
What Jackson doesn’t have much of, despite his high rank in the Navy, is extensive administrative experience, especially with a bureaucracy the size of the VA. In addition to running the White House medical office, he also led a bomb-disposal unit and commanded a forward-deployed Surgical Shock Trauma Platoon in Iraq. Compare that to Shulkin, a health-care executive with a lengthy resume, who Trump promoted to VA secretary after he served as deputy secretary during the Obama administration. Shulkin’s predecessor was Robert McDonald, who had previously served as president, chairman, and CEO of the Fortune 500 company Procter and Gamble. McDonald replaced Eric Shinseki, who had been chief of staff for the Army. Jackson is being asked to take on an enormous, complicated, and troubled bureaucracy with much less direct experience than those men.
Shulkin in NYT:
I have fought to stand up for this great department and all that it embodies. In recent months, though, the environment in Washington has turned so toxic, chaotic, disrespectful and subversive that it became impossible for me to accomplish the important work that our veterans need and deserve. I can assure you that I will continue to speak out against those who seek to harm the V.A. by putting their personal agendas in front of the well-being of our veterans.
As many of you know, I am a physician, not a politician. I came to government with an understanding that Washington can be ugly, but I assumed that I could avoid all of the ugliness by staying true to my values. I have been falsely accused of things by people who wanted me out of the way. But despite these politically-based attacks on me and my family’s character, I am proud of my record and know that I acted with the utmost integrity. Unfortunately, none of that mattered.
As I prepare to leave government, I am struck by a recurring thought: It should not be this hard to serve your country.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Coulter Turns on Trump

 In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character.


Lloyd Grove at The Daily Beast:
Right-wing firebrand Ann Coulter, whose 2016 campaign book In Trump We Trust touted the many virtues of the Republican nominee, is having second, third, and possibly even fourth thoughts about Donald J. Trump.
“I knew he was a shallow, lazy ignoramus, and I didn’t care,” Coulter admitted to an audience largely composed of College Republicans and a few hecklers at Columbia University on Tuesday night.

Moving On from HRC

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race.

At The Hill, Lloyd Green says that Democratic candidates need to listen to their voters, not to their defeated presidential candidate.
Right now, Democratic incumbents in states that went for Trump appear to be holding on. The latest polls show potential Democratic Senate pickups in Tennessee, Arizona and Nevada, with McCaskill engaged in a seesaw reelection battle, and Brown sitting on a double-digit lead.
Still, the temptation for national Democrats and party activists is to demand conformity and parrot Clinton’s critiques of half the country, regardless of damage and outcome. Bottom line, don’t do it. Winning is far more satisfying than prematurely gloating. As Democrat Tom Murphy, the mayor of Mamaroneck, a middle-class New York suburb, framedthings, the party can’t expect that “every district is left-leaning Berkeley.”
While Clinton’s frustrations are understandable, she should get off the stage, along with her dismal poll numbers. Back in December, Gallup pegged her favorability at 36 percent, with more than three in five Americans voicing disapproval. The chaos surrounding Trump and the special counsel have not salvaged Clinton’s standing. Indeed, her favorability ratings have actually dropped since last summer.
From looks of things, duking it out with Trump is better left to Joe Biden. For the Democrats, a vanishing Clinton allows them to break with the turbulence that marked the Clinton years, their aftermath, and Trump’s win. The question is whether Clinton will give the Democrats the breathing room they need. If past is prelude, don’t bet on it.

Delusions and Lies


Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan at Axios:
President Trump often gets agitated — and stirred to action — by random things he hears on TV or from shoot-the-bull conversations with friends.
Why it matters: It drives staff nuts because they are responding to things that are either inaccurate, highly distorted or flat-out don't exist.
  • Exhibit 1: Trump tells people Amazon has gotten a free ride from taxpayers and cushy treatment from the U.S. Postal Service. His real estate buddies tell him — and he agrees — that Amazon is killing shopping malls and brick-and-mortar retailers.
  • Exhibit 2: "Per two senior administration officials, Trump continued to rail privately about the omnibus bill, and has become convinced of things that aren’t true about it," the N.Y. Times' Maggie Haberman tweeted yesterday.
  • Exhibit 3: Trump officials like Gary Cohn who favor free trade have felt like "Groundhog Day" trying to explain trade deficits to him.
  • Exhibit 4: Trump's conviction that the Paris climate deal is "killing" the U.S., when in reality it's a voluntary and pretty toothless agreement.
Ari Berman at Mother Jones:
Defending the Trump administration’s controversial decision to add a question about US citizenship to the 2020 census form, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Tuesday, “It’s something that has been included in every census since 1965, with the exception of 2010, when it was removed.”
That’s wrong. The citizenship question was removed from the decennial census form in 1950 and hasn’t been used since. It is asked on the annual American Community Survey, which reaches about 15 percent of US households, but Sanders didn’t give any indication that she was referring to that survey. And the question wasn’t removed from that survey in 2010.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Foreign Influence

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal.

Cambridge Analytica assigned dozens of non-U.S. citizens to provide campaign strategy and messaging advice to ­Republican candidates in 2014, according to three former workers for the data firm, even as an attorney warned executives to abide by U.S. laws limiting foreign involvement in elections.
The assignments came amid efforts to present the newly created company as “an American brand” that would appeal to U.S. political clients even though its parent, SCL Group, was based in London, according to former Cambridge Analytica research director Christopher Wylie.
Wylie, who emerged this month as a whistleblower, provided The Washington Post with documents that describe a program across several U.S. states to win campaigns for Republicans using psychological profiling to reach voters with individually tailored messages. The documents include previously unreported details about the program, which was called “Project Ripon” for the Wisconsin town where the Republican Party was born in 1854.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Trump Gang is Cribbing from the Capone Gang

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal.

Eric Bradner and Maegan Vazquez at CNN:
Adult film star Stormy Daniels said in a Sunday interview that seven years ago she was threatened by a man when she was trying to sell her story about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.
During her first on-air interview detailing her alleged relationship with Trump, Daniels told CBS' "60 Minutes" that she was approached in a Las Vegas parking lot while she was with her daughter in 2011.
"I was in a parking lot, going to a fitness class with my infant daughter. T-- taking, you know, the seats facing backwards in the backseat, diaper bag, you know, gettin' all the stuff out," Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, said.

She continued, "And a guy walked up on me and said to me, 'Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.' And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, 'That's a beautiful little girl. It'd be a shame if something happened to her mom.' And then he was gone."
The man who threatened her sounded like Frank Nitti in The Untouchables.

 

The movie Capone had his own version of "fake news."
Now, I have done nothing to harm these people but they are angered with me, so what do they do, doctor up some income tax, for which they have no case. To speak to me like me, no, to harass a peaceful man. I pray to God if I ever had a grievance I'd have a little more self respect. 
Image result for deniro untouchables

Image result for trump fingers gesture
Trump even seems to be copying DeNiro in his hand gestures.



























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Image result for trump finger











Sunday, March 25, 2018

"You Should Do It"

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger at WP:
When a Russian news agency reached out to George Papadopoulos to request an interview shortly before the 2016 election, the young adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump made sure to seek approval from campaign headquarters.
“You should do it,” deputy communications director Bryan Lanza urged Papadopoulos in a September 2016 email, emphasizing the benefits of a U.S. “partnership with Russia.”
The exchange was a sign that Papadopoulos — who pushed the Trump operation to meet with Russian officials — had the campaign’s blessing for some of his foreign outreach.
Since Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts during the campaign and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III,
 Trump officials have sought to paint the 30-year old energy consultant as a low-level volunteer whose outreach to Russia was not authorized by the campaign — and in some cases was actively discouraged.
Emails described to The Washington Post, which are among thousands of documents turned over to investigators examining Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign, show Papadopoulos had more-extensive contact with key Trump campaign and presidential transition officials than has been publicly acknowledged.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Trump Swears as He Bloats the Debt Even More


President Donald Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill early Friday afternoon, but not before leaving both his staff and lawmakers on edge for four hours by tweeting he might veto it and trigger a government shutdown.
Just days earlier at the White House, the president assured House Speaker Paul Ryan he would sign the bill. A half-hour after the tweet, Mr. Ryan (R., Wis.) called the president and urged him to keep the promise, a congressional aide said.
White House aides huddled with Mr. Trump and warned him that he might catch blame for shutting down the government on a weekend he planned to spend at his Palm Beach, Fla., resort.
“F— that,” Mr. Trump said in rejecting the argument, according to people familiar with the discussion. In the end, he signed the bill in a West Wing ceremony but complained that it was so long no one had read it and warned Congress he wouldn’t sign another like it in the future.
Mark Landler and Julie Hirschfeld Davis at NYT:
 Inside the West Wing, aides described an atmosphere of bewildered resignation as they grappled with the all-too-familiar task of predicting and reacting in real time to Mr. Trump’s shifting moods.
Aides said there was no grand strategy to the president’s actions, and that he got up each morning this week not knowing what he would do. Much as he did as a New York businessman at Trump Tower, Mr. Trump watched television, reacted to what he saw on television and then reacted to the reaction.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Cyber Update: Guccifer 2.0 and Cambridge Analytica


Guccifer 2.0, the “lone hacker” who took credit for providing WikiLeaks with stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, was in fact an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU), The Daily Beast has learned. It’s an attribution that resulted from a fleeting but critical slip-up in GRU tradecraft.
That forensic determination has substantial implications for the criminal probe into potential collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia. The Daily Beast has learned that the special counsel in that investigation, Robert Mueller, has taken over the probe into Guccifer and brought the FBI agents who worked to track the persona onto his team.
In September, Byron Tau reported at WSJ:
Roger Stone, a longtime friend and adviser to Donald Trump, told members of the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he had no involvement in what U.S. officials have called a Russian campaign of interference and disinformationduring the 2016 presidential election.
Speaking to reporters after his closed-door interview on Capitol Hill, Mr. Stone said that “a substantial amount” of the questioning focused on his interactions with entities and organizations that helped disseminate stolen emails aimed at embarrassing the Democratic Party, including the website WikiLeaks and a hacker entity called Guccifer 2.0.
In a lengthy statement released before his appearance, Mr. Stone disclosed his correspondence with Guccifer 2.0 and detailed his interactions with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. During the 2016 campaign, both entities published stolen emails from Democratic Party organizations, an element of what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as a Russian effort to tip the presidential race toward Mr. Trump.
Mr. Stone, a veteran Republican operative who worked for Mr. Trump briefly as a consultant and continues to serve as an informal adviser and confidant, said in prepared remarks that he resented “any allegation that I would collude with the oppressive Russian state to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.”
The blueprint for how Cambridge Analytica claimed to have won the White House for Donald Trump by using Google, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube is revealed for the first time in an internal company document obtained by the Guardian.
The 27-page presentation was produced by the Cambridge Analytica officials who worked most closely on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
A former employee explained to the Guardian how it details the techniques used by the Trump campaign to micro-target US voters with carefully tailored messages about the Republican nominee across digital channels.
Intensive survey research, data modelling and performance-optimising algorithms were used to target 10,000 different ads to different audiences in the months leading up to the election. The ads were viewed billions of times, according to the presentation.
 https://www.scribd.com/document/374672745/Cambridge-Analytica-s-Trump-for-President-debrief 

Matthew Rosenberg at NYT:
The political action committee founded by John R. Bolton, President Trump’s incoming national security adviser, was one of the earliest customers of Cambridge Analytica, which it hired specifically to develop psychological profiles of voters with data harvested from tens of millions of Facebook profiles, according to former Cambridge employees and company documents. 
Mr. Bolton’s political committee, known as The John Bolton Super PAC, first hired Cambridge in August 2014, months after the political data firm was founded and while it was still harvesting the Facebook data.
In the two years that followed, Mr. Bolton’s super PAC spent nearly $1.2 million primarily for “survey research,” which is a term that campaigns use for polling, according to campaign finance records.
But the contract between the political action committee and Cambridge, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, offers more detail on just what Mr. Bolton was buying. The contract broadly describes the services to be delivered by Cambridge as “behavioral microtargeting with psychographic messaging.”

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Bolton

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss the odd people surrounding Trump.
The choice of servants is of no little importance to a prince, and they are good or not according to the discrimination of the prince. And the first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.
-- Machiavelli

Dear Sir:
I'm writing to urge you to consider blocking in committee the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the UN.
In the late summer of 1994, I worked as the subcontracted leader of a US AID project in Kyrgyzstan officially awarded to a HUB primary contractor. My own employer was Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly, and I reported directly to Republican leader Charlie Black.
After months of incompetence, poor contract performance, inadequate in-country funding, and a general lack of interest or support in our work from the prime contractor, I was forced to make US AID officials aware of the prime contractor's poor performance.
I flew from Kyrgyzstan to Moscow to meet with other Black Manafort employees who were leading or subcontracted to other US AID projects. While there, I met with US AID officials and expressed my concerns about the project -- chief among them, the prime contractor's inability to keep enough cash in country to allow us to pay bills, which directly resulted in armed threats by Kyrgyz contractors to me and my staff.
Within hours of sending a letter to US AID officials outlining my concerns, I met John Bolton, whom the prime contractor hired as legal counsel to represent them to US AID. And, so, within hours of dispatching that letter, my hell began.
Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel -- throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman. For nearly two weeks, while I awaited fresh direction from my company and from US AID, John Bolton hounded me in such an appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to pound on the door and shout threats.
When US AID asked me to return to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in advance of assuming leadership of a project in Kazakstan, I returned to my project to find that John Bolton had proceeded me by two days. Why? To meet with every other AID team leader as well as US foreign-service officials in Bishkek, claiming that I was under investigation for misuse of funds and likely was facing jail time. As US AID can confirm, nothing was further from the truth.
He indicated to key employees of or contractors to State that, based on his discussions with investigatory officials, I was headed for federal prison and, if they refused to cooperate with either him or the prime contractor's replacement team leader, they, too, would find themselves the subjects of federal investigation. As a further aside, he made unconscionable comments about my weight, my wardrobe and, with a couple of team leaders, my sexuality, hinting that I was a lesbian (for the record, I'm not).
When I resurfaced in Kyrgyzstan, I learned that he had done such a convincing job of smearing me that it took me weeks -- with the direct intervention of US AID officials -- to limit the damage. In fact, it was only US AID's appoinment of me as a project leader in Almaty, Kazakstan that largely put paid to the rumors Mr. Bolton maliciously circulated.
As a maligned whistleblower, I've learned firsthand the lengths Mr. Bolton will go to accomplish any goal he sets for himself. Truth flew out the window. Decency flew out the window. In his bid to smear me and promote the interests of his client, he went straight for the low road and stayed there.
John Bolton put me through hell -- and he did everything he could to intimidate, malign and threaten not just me, but anybody unwilling to go along with his version of events. His behavior back in 1994 wasn't just unforgivable, it was pathological.
I cannot believe that this is a man being seriously considered for any diplomatic position, let alone such a critical posting to the UN. Others you may call before your committee will be able to speak better to his stated dislike for and objection to stated UN goals. I write you to speak about the very character of the man.
It took me years to get over Mr. Bolton's actions in that Moscow hotel in 1994, his intensely personal attacks and his shocking attempts to malign my character.
I urge you from the bottom of my heart to use your ability to block Mr. Bolton's nomination in committee.
Respectfully yours,
Melody Townsel
Dallas, TX 75208

Party Composition

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the demographic divides of the 2016 campaign.

Pew has analyzed party affiliation data from 2017.
Record share of college graduates align with Democrats. Voters who have completed college make up a third of all registered voters. And a majority of all voters with at least a four-year college degree (58%) now identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, the highest share dating back to 1992. Just 36% affiliate with the Republican Party or lean toward the GOP. The much larger group of voters who do not have a four-year degree is more evenly divided in partisan affiliation. And voters with no college experience have been moving toward the GOP: 47% identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, up from 42% in 2014.
Continued racial divisions in partisan identification. About half of white voters (51%) identify with the GOP or lean Republican, while 43% identify as Democrats or lean Democratic. These figures are little changed from recent years. By contrast, African American voters continue to affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic by an overwhelming margin (84% Democrat to 8% Republican). Hispanic voters align with the Democrats by greater than two-to-one (63% to 28%), while Asian American voters also largely identify as Democrats or lean Democratic (65% Democrat, 27% Republican).
Larger differences among whites by education. Most white voters with at least a four-year college degree (53%) affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic; 42% identify as Republicans or lean Republican. As recently as two years ago, leaned partisan identification among white college graduates was split (47% Democrat, 47% Republican). Majorities of white voters with some college experience but who do not have a degree (55%) and those with no college experience (58%) continue to identify as Republicans or lean Republican.
Millennials, especially Millennial women, tilt more Democratic. As noted in our recent report on generations and politics, Millennial voters are more likely than older generations to affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic. Nearly six-in-ten Millennials (59%) affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic, compared with about half of Gen Xers and Boomers (48% each) and 43% of voters in the Silent Generation. A growing majority of Millennial women (70%) affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic; four years ago, 56% of Millennial women did so. About half of Millennial men (49%) align with the Democratic Party, little changed in recent years. The gender gap in leaned party identification among Millennials is wider than among older generations.

Democrats are rapidly shifting left.  Republicans have long been on the right.





As we note in the book, non-college whites once accounted for a majority of  Democrats.  Now they are only one-third:





Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Trump Calls Putin

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Carol D. Leonnig, David Nakamura and Josh Dawsey at WP:
President Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers Tuesday when he congratulated Russian President Vladi­mir Putin on his reelection — including a section in his briefing materials in all-capital letters stating “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” according to officials familiar with the call.
Trump also chose not to heed talking points from aides instructing him to condemn the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain with a powerful nerve agent, a case that both the British and U.S. governments have blamed on Moscow.



From MSNBC:
 Former CIA Director John Brennan says it is possible the Russians 'have something' on the president, and he also believes the country's future is in jeopardy as Trump 'continues his antics.'

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Trump


"The monstrosity of this, reaching Smiley through a thickening wall of spiritual exhaustion, left him momentarily speechless." 
-- John LeCarre, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy -- based loosely on the story of the Cambridge Five.

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign

Emma Graham-Harrison and Carole Cadwalladr at The Guardian:
Senior executives from the firm at the heart of Facebook’s data breach boasted of playing a key role in bringing Donald Trump to power and said they used “unattributable and untrackable” advertising to support their clients in elections, according to an undercover expose.
In secretly recorded conversations, Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, Alexander Nix, claimed he had met Trump “many times”, while another senior member of staff said the firm was behind the “defeat crooked Hillary” advertising campaign.
“We just put information into the bloodstream of the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to watch it take shape,” said the executive. “And so this stuff infiltrates the online community, but with no branding, so it’s unattributable, untrackable.”
Caught on camera by an undercover team from Channel 4 News, Nix was also dismissive of Democrats on the House intelligence committee, who had questioned him over Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign.
Senior managers then appeared to suggest that in their work for US clients, there was planned division of work between official campaigns and unaffiliated “political action groups”.
That could be considered coordination – which is not allowed under US election law. The firm has denied any wrongdoing
...
 “We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting. We ran all the digital campaign, the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy,” he told reporters who were posing as potential clients from Sri Lanka.
The company’s head of data, Alex Tayler, added: “When you think about the fact that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3m votes but won the electoral college vote that’s down to the data and the research.
“You did your rallies in the right locations, you moved more people out in those key swing states on election day. That’s how he won the election.”
Daniel Drezner at WP:
And then, over the weekend, this Guardian story about Cambridge Analytica came over the transom, and it is pretty bonkers. It would appear that Cambridge Analytica, a firm that did data analytics work for the Trump campaign, illegally harvested Facebook data so as to develop its influence techniques. The article contains this sentence: “Dr Kogan — who later changed his name to Dr Spectre, but has subsequently changed it back to Dr Kogan — is still a faculty member at Cambridge University, a senior research associate.” Oh, and of course, Russians are involved on the periphery.

The first story was enough to send Facebook’s stock in the United Kingdom down six points. And then, on Sunday, part II of the story broke, and hoo, boy, Cambridge Analytica is gonna be in big trouble:
The company at the centre of the Facebook data breach boasted of using honey traps, fake news campaigns and operations with ex-spies to swing election campaigns around the world, a new investigation reveals.
Executives from Cambridge Analytica spoke to undercover reporters from Channel 4 News about the dark arts used by the company to help clients, which included entrapping rival candidates in fake bribery stings and hiring prostitutes to seduce them.
In one exchange, the company chief executive, Alexander Nix, is recorded telling reporters: “It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.”
...
What I want to do, but can’t, is dismiss the whole story as another conspiracy. In a world in which this administration is hemorrhaging scandal after scandal, commentators need to rethink what constitutes a fair deal. And I hate having to think like that.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

"I Am the Storm"








Cambridge Analytica and Russia

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign

Issie Lapowsky at Wired:
CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA, A data analysis firm that worked on President Trump's 2016 campaign, and its related company, Strategic Communications Laboratories, pilfered data on 50 million Facebook users and secretly kept it, according to two reports in The New York Times and The Guardian. The apparent misuse of Facebook data—and the social media giant's failure to police it—leave both companies with plenty still to answer for.
Facebook has suspended both Cambridge and SCL while it investigates whether both companies retained Facebook user data that had been provided by third-party researcher Aleksandr Kogan of the company Global Science Research, a violation of Facebook's terms. The suspensions were announced just hours before The New York Times and The Guardian published stories Saturday morning describing how Cambridge Analytica harvested data on 50 million US Facebook users, a number far larger than the 270,000 accounts Facebook initially cited. Facebook says it knew about the breach, but had received legally binding guarantees from the company that all of the data was deleted
Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison at The Guardian:
Aleksandr Kogan, the Cambridge University academic who orchestrated the harvesting of Facebook data, had previously unreported ties to a Russian university, including a teaching position and grants for research into the social media network, the Observer has discovered. Cambridge Analytica, the data firm he worked with – which funded the project to turn tens of millions of Facebook profiles into a unique political weapon – also attracted interest from a key Russian firm with links to the Kremlin.
Energy firm Lukoil, which is now on the US sanctions list and has been used as a vehicle of government influence, saw a presentation on the firm’s work in 2014. It began with a focus on voter suppression in Nigeria, and Cambridge Analytica also discussed “micro-targeting” individuals on social media during elections. 
...
Kogan, a lecturer who worked with Cambridge Analytica on building up the database of US voters then at the heart of the company’s plans, said he had not had any connection to the Lukoil pitch.
But while he was helping turn Facebook profiles into a political tool he was also an associate professor at St Petersburg State University, taking Russian government grants to fund other research into social media. “Stress, health, and psychological wellbeing in social networks: cross-cultural investigation” was the title of one piece of research. Online posts showed Kogan lecturing in Russian. One talk was called: “New methods of communication as an effective political instrument”.
Cambridge University said academics are allowed to take on outside work but are expected to inform their head of institution, a rule Kogan had complied with. “We understand that Dr Kogan informed his head of department of discussions with St Petersburg University regarding a collaboration; it was understood that this work and any associated grants would be in a private capacity,” a spokesman said.
Apart from that, Kogan appears to have largely kept the work private. Colleagues said they had not heard about the post in St Petersburg. “I am very surprised by that. No one knew,” one academic who asked not to be named told the Observer. Russia is not mentioned in a 10-page CV Kogan posted on a university website in 2015. The CV lists undergraduate prizes and grants of a few thousand dollars and links to dozens of media interviews. 
Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison at The Guardian:
The data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.
 



Saturday, March 17, 2018

McCabe

  In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal.

Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, on his firing by Trump:
Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey. The release of this report was accelerated only after my testimony to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that I would corroborate former Director Comey's accounts of his discussions with the President. The OIG's focus on me and this report became a part of an unprecedented effort by the Administration, driven by the President himself, to remove me from my position, destroy my reputation, and possibly strip me of a pension that I worked 21 years to earn. The accelerated release of the report, and the punitive actions taken in response, make sense only when viewed through this lens. Thursday's comments from the White House are just the latest example of this.
This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally. It is part of this Administration's ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel's work.
I have always prided myself on serving my country with distinction and integrity, and I always encouraged those around me to do the same. Just ask them. To have my career end in this way, and to be accused of lacking candor when at worst I was distracted in the midst of chaotic events, is incredibly disappointing and unfair. But it will not erase the important work I was privileged to be a part of, the results of which will in the end be revealed for the country to see.
I have unfailing faith in the men and women of the FBI and I am confident that their efforts to seek justice will not be deterred.


Friday, March 16, 2018

DGA Plagiarizes McCaskill (and She's Probably Fine with That)

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race.

Natasha Korecki and Daniel Strauss at Politico:
The Democratic Governors Association is planning to launch an ad calling Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's right-wing challenger "too conservative" for the state — an apparent move to boost state Rep. Jeanne Ives in her campaign's final days.
The ad, which is slated to begin airing on broadcast and cable TV in the state Friday, begins with a question: "When is a conservative leader too conservative for Illinois?"

But it quickly evolves into a list of Ives' conservative positions, presenting them in a way that could be appealing to some Republican primary voters.
...

The strategy is more reminiscent of the Missouri Senate primary in 2012, when Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill paid for ads calling then-Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) — whom she viewed as her weakest possible opponent — "too conservative" for the state.
"Using the guidance of my campaign staff and consultants, we came up with the idea for a 'dog whistle' ad, a message that was pitched in such a way that it would be heard only by a certain group of people," McCaskill wrote later in her memoir. "I told my team we needed to put Akin’s uber-conservative bona fides in an ad — and then, using reverse psychology, tell voters not to vote for him. And we needed to run the hell out of that ad."