Trump campaign advisers were talking with Russian intelligence officials during the election.

Well, I’m exhausted, how about you guys? Just trying to keep up with today’s news has tuckered me right out.

As it stands, it seems like many of the accusations of the Trump campaign coordinating with Russian intelligence might be true. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN spent much of the evening competing to break this story.

The WaPo article is a detailed run-down of today’s Flynn story, but the New York Times, CNN and Vox, there, are reporting on this evening’s more recent news: the fact that Trumpsters were in regular contact with Russian intelligence officers during the campaign.

Let me run that by you again, because it’s amazing: Russia put considerable time and effort into subverting our election, and Trump’s campaign advisers were talking to Russian intelligence while they did that.

Did the Trump campaign coordinate with Russian intelligence to “hack” our elections? Well, no one is conclusively saying so, yet, but it sure the hell looks like they were, folks.

I don’t even know what to think about this, it’s so stunning. On one hand I’m not at all surprised, because if you were paying any attention at all this summer, you saw this coming. On the other hand, holy crap you guys I think the president of the United States might be a Russian stooge.

Watching the wheels come off this presidency is much the same. Not surprising, and also mind-blowing. Like, of course the wheels are coming off, these people are incompetent. But holy crap, how did we let this happen?

I don’t know. It’s late and I don’t have anything intelligent to say about this because I’ve been staring at it like a slow-motion train wreck all day. I can tell you one thing, though: I cannot wait for Spicer’s daily briefing tomorrow.

(Featured Image Credit: Donald Trump signs orders to green-light the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, 1/24/17, by the Office of the President of the United States. Source.)

Friday Tunes: ‘Symphony of Destruction,’ Megadeth

“‘Symphony of Destruction’ is a song by American heavy metal band Megadeth, released as a single from their 1992 album, Countdown to Extinction. The lyrics explore the hypothetical situation where an average citizen is placed in a position where he runs the country while the public is led by a phantom government. Penned by vocalist and frontman Dave Mustaine, the song received significant radio play and charted in various territories, making it one of Megadeth’s best known songs.” (Wikipedia)

You can check the lyrics here.

Well it’s been a hell of a week, eh? Wild spy reports about Donald Trump, cabinet confirmations, Rudy Giuliani, of all the people, in charge of cyber security, of all the things, midnight voting sessions by the sociopaths in Congress to strip protection for pre-existing conditions, free birth control, and candy for kids… JFC. I feel hungover and I haven’t even had anything to drink.

Let’s take a quick look at the news.

The House just voted on the first steps of repealing the ACA, following in the Senate’s steps. If you think they aren’t going to repeal Obamacare I’m telling you they are, it’s going to be a dumpster fire, and we’re all gonna suffer for it. You can read about some of the impacts of repealing the ACA at Politifact, in the LA Times, and in the Atlantic.

Folks on Twitter are saying that Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, has disconnected his public phones. I haven’t called to check that myself, though.

In case you forgot, net neutrality is also on the chopping block now. Outgoing FCC commissioner Tom Wheeler doesn’t think it’s going to be all that easy to kill net neutrality, though. I hope he’s right.

We just found out that one of Trump’s top advisers, Gen. Michael Flynn, talked with the Russian ambassador while Obama was levying his punishments for the Russian cyber attacks. And also they lied about the timing of the calls. Which doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but is somewhat suggestive.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Here’s a small piles of links to good reading that I’ve saved up over the week. Enjoy!
Continue reading Friday Tunes: ‘Symphony of Destruction,’ Megadeth

Unverified, leaked intelligence report links Trump & Russia

👉 This post has been rewritten for clarity and new updates. Read the original version here.

At this point it’s basically common knowledge that Donald Trump is a big fan of Russian and Vladimir Putin. We were talking about the shady Trump/Russia connections back in July. Probably before that, too.

We know Russia hacked John Podesta and the DNC under Putin’s orders. We know they released their findings through Wikileaks. We know Russia hacked at least some of the RNC’s older domains, and elected not to release any of that. And we know that a lot of people working for the Trump campaign had at least somewhat less than savory connections with Russia.

This afternoon, four senior officials of America’s intelligence agencies, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers, and FBI Director James Comey, testified before congress about the Russian hacking allegations.

The big, earth shattering news that came out of this hearing was that intelligence agents had presented to President Obama and President-elect Trump a report that said, basically, that Russia was balls deep in Trump and owned him like a small purse dog.

This news came from an unverified intelligence report compiled by an employee of a private intelligence agency. This particular employee is known to the American intelligence communities, is former MI6, and has provided solid intelligence before. Also, apparently we know some of his sources, and they seem to be legit, too. This guy compiled his report as opposition research and became so alarmed with what he found, the story goes, that he ended up turning his information over to the FBI.

This unverified report isn’t news. Rumors of it were floating around Twitter and Reddit back in – I want to say late June or early July, but my memory might be off. Mother Jones did a story on the report in October. At the time, the report was considered something serious enough to be worth taking a deeper look at, but also outlandish enough that no one really wanted to touch it. The report was apparently shopped around to quite a number of reporters and news organizations, according to various folks on Twitter this afternoon.

CNN reported on the thing today, and that was shortly followed by Buzzfeed News dumping the whole leaked, unverified report in their story.

The Internet blew. up. y’all. This report is spicy. It’s got everything. Donald Trump having weird, petty, golden shower-based sex with prostitutes in Russian hotels, active collusion with Russian espionage agents, sex tapes, all kinds of shady policy deals and financial shenanigans – just everything. If even a quarter of what’s in this report is true, it’s a frickin’ firestorm.

The problem is, y’know. The report is completely unverified.

Here’s where things get a little sticky. On one hand, there are some really outlandish claims in this report. I mean, the golden shower story is wild and exactly the kind of thing I’d generally dismiss out of hand because it hits too many caution triggers. It seems custom-built to be the sort of story angry liberals take off with and build happy little conspiracy theories out of.

On the other hand, there are a lot of credible-sounding claims in here that people in the know are taking seriously. Lawfare, Wired and Josh Marshall have some smart things to say about that. Their articles basically boil down to: “Keep a salt shaker handy, but there’s a lot of stuff in this report that needs looking into.”

And that’s not even mentioning the Guardian’s article, “FBI chief given dossier by John McCain alleging secret Trump-Russia contacts,” which goes into some of the less fanciful revelations in the report and tosses in the fact that the FBI sought warrants from the FISA court to surveil Trump campaign people over Russia connections.

So where does that leave us? Well, it doesn’t look good, folks. I mean, from over here it looks a lot like we’re about to inaugurate a Russian intelligence asset president, but that’s just me. If you only take one thing away from this mess it should be that we desperately, and quickly, need a thorough and independent investigation into Russian interference in the election and Russian ties to Donald Trump.

Related Reading

Side Note

There’s a rumor flying around conservative Twitter, parts of Reddit and other “alt-right” Internet circles that the leaked intelligence report that kicked off this whole mess was a fake story fed to reporters and eventually the CIA by trolls on 4Chan. Depending on where you read the story, either the whole report, vast swaths of the report, or just the “golden showers” portion of the report is made up and part of the 4Chan troll story.

This is – well, to put it bluntly, it’s bullshit. Feel free to disregard it. I’ve been hearing rumors of this leaked report since mid-summer and the post on 4Chan that’s being considered “proof” was written in November. Also, the golden showers story, while vastly amusing to some of us, is hardly the important part of this news. It’s the ties to Russia, coordination with Russia during the campaign and financial entanglements with Russia that are the meat of this story.

(Photo credit: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C., by Gage Skidmore. [Source & Licenses.])

Friday Tunes: ‘Hand In My Pocket,’ Alanis Morissette (& Weekend Linkdump)

“‘Hand in My Pocket’ is a rock song by Canadian recording artist and songwriter Alanis Morissette, for her third studio album, Jagged Little Pill (1995). The song was written by Morissette and Glen Ballard, and was released as the second single from the album. The song was released on October 31, 1995, nearly five months after the album release. ‘Hand in My Pocket’ received generally favorable reviews from music critics, who applauded Morissette’s songwriting.” (Wikipedia)

I always thought Alanis Morissette got more crap than she deserved for her music. She had a great voice and fairly solid lyrics, for the 90’s, plus her music was catchy. She was never, like, a huge favorite of mine, but I always liked her. You can check out the lyrics here.

Weekend Reading

I’ve got a stack of great reading here, including the rundown on the House GOP’s assault on Obamacare and regulation in general, an interesting thing about Donald Trump and fascism, science communication, and more.
Continue reading Friday Tunes: ‘Hand In My Pocket,’ Alanis Morissette (& Weekend Linkdump)

Obama sanctions Russia over election ‘hacking’

When I write about Russia diddling our elections, I put “hacking” in quotes, like so: Russian election “hacking.” This is because because Russia did not actually “hack” our elections.

Russia hacked the DNC and got emails, and used those emails to fuel a propaganda campaign that was aimed either at disrupting our 2016 election in general by making Americans distrust the election and our democratic election methods, or to support Trump and help him win the election, depending on which intelligence agency you listen to. I think the CIA thinks Russia was supporting Trump and the FBI thinks it was just for general disruption. I may have those backwards.

I’m pointing this out because apparently a whole bunch of us think Russia somehow actually “hacked” the election itself, IE, futzed with voting tallies. This did not happen. Voting tallies were not futzed with at all, by any party, in any direction, that anyone can prove.

At any rate, the Russians diddled our elections, and President Obama announced that we would be retaliating back during his last press conference, and today he announced those retaliations.

To sum up: 35 Russian diplomats will be expelled from the US, two Russian compounds in the US will be closed, 9 individuals and entities will be sanctioned, and the DHS and FBI are releasing information on Russian cyber activity to help US tech people and companies combat Russian hacking.

You can read the White House’s statement here.